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Secrets of the Oscars

The almost glamorous life of a 'seat-filler'

Jocelyn S. Weiss helps make sure you never see an empty seat in the audience during the Academy Awards ceremony

By Jocelyn S. Weiss

(CNN) -- Will it be "Saving Private Ryan" or "Life is Beautiful," Nolte or Benigni, or more importantly, will Gwyneth or Cate get up first to go to the bathroom!! Yup ... that's what I'm contemplating right now. I have been standing in the cramped and dark hallway of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for three hours with 200 other people thinking the same thing.

We are all waiting for the awards to begin; waiting to be unleashed into the vast darkness, dotted with stars on the other side of the wall. Hopefully there are no claustrophobics in the group! There is no room for escape.

These are some of those "unglamorous" moments: I can feel my perfectly straightened hair begin to frizz as if I were in a rain forest, my lip liner just rolled out of my bag into no-man's land, and someone just stepped on the back of my dress! There are beads of sweat running down my back, and the girl behind me is trying to elbow her way in front of me. There's no way she is going to get ahead of me!

All this for a lousy "Oscar" hat that is modeled after the infamous John Deer hats favored by father when he feels inclined to mount his tractor and bond with the ground beneath him.

Then I hear the call from the door opening in front of me. My Adrenaline begins to pump. All's forgotten about the past three hours. It's show time!


I gather the tail of my dress and lurch forward into the darkness of the auditorium, scanning the horizon for "the empty seat" while simultaneously avoiding a head on collision with a camera flying on a giant mettle jib. I'm hoping the heel of my shoe doesn't detach itself, causing me to go tumbling into the knees of Edward Norton. (Well, on second thought, that might not be a negative experience!)

I see the seat ... Gywneth has indeed risen from her seat ... God, I hope she doesn't win best actress! Listening to her gush at the Golden Globes was enough for one lifetime. She should really stick with the British accent!

Excuse me ... pardon me ... oh, I am so sorry, I really did not mean to step on your toes, Mr. Turner. This definitely would not to be the best moment to tell him how much I enjoy working for CNN. I pounce into the empty seat.


I gaze admiringly at Ben Affleck, who is sitting on my left, forgetting, for that brief moment, I am only a seat filler.

I only hope my experience as a seat filler at this year's Academy Awards will be that exciting. You won't find the definition of a seat filler in Webster's Dictionary; but we are, hopefully, the unobtrusive seat ornaments you don't know exist. We have an important job of pleasing the viewing audience by making sure you don't see empty seats next to Cate Blanchett or Harvey Weinstein. Empty seats do not make for good television for one of the most watched TV events of all time.

I am not a "virgin" seat filler. I have a past! In 1997, I got the opportunity to run, duck, dodge, and leap through the Shrine auditorium. I really did step on Ted Turner's toes and then had him help me with my dress as I slithered into his row.

I heard Courtney Love whisper sweet nothings into Ed Norton's ear, saw Andie MacDowell struggle to put her lipstick on correctly in the bathroom, and I got to view Dennis Rodman up close and personal. (Not a pretty sight. Especially after the amount of alcohol he must have consumed on one of his many jaunts from his seat to the bar. He really should hire a new make-up artist!)

It's a tough job, but well worth hair traumas, pushy people, sweat, and near collisions. After all, I am taking on this adventure again. How often does one get to smile right into the eyes of Tom Cruise, compliment Lauren Holly on her choice of gown, and sit barely one inch away from Ben Affleck. For one night, I can become on of those star-gawking geeks I normally malign on a daily basis! Moreover, I will enjoy every moment.

I will make sure I get all the juice that's fit to print: Who had the best dress, largest implants, worst hair, and biggest baubles. I will investigate the bathroom scene and survey the red carpet mayhem. And, this year I won't have to scale a wall to get into the Miramax party; I managed to finagle an invite. Who wouldn't want the killer seat filler?

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