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March 1, 2011

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Vignettes from the big night

IT'S not that big a secret that the Academy Awards producers employ seat fillers, those well-dressed folks who sit in the seats for the cameras while celebrities take a smoke break or make a dash to the bathroom.

But did you know about red-carpet walkers?

About two dozen were lined up along the Oscar red carpet before Sunday's show, waiting for their 15 or so seconds of frame, which would come whenever there was a lull in the arrival of the real stars.

With temperatures in about 10 degrees Celsius, however, many of the female walkers shivered in their formal evening gowns. When people weren't screaming for celebrities, the sound of chattering teeth could be clearly heard.

Carpet fillers aren't allowed to wear jackets or coats, so as the day wore on and the temperature dropped they had to improvise. One gentleman handed his companion his tuxedo jacket to wear for a few minutes. Another person found a bit of fabric that had covered a scaffold.

Seat-fillers take a vow of silence and won't speak to the media. But the carpet fillers were a little more talkative.

Several confirmed that it was, indeed, really cold.

Fans' views

It may have been cold in the bleachers along the Oscar red carpet, but Leah Park and Natalia Barulich were feeling flushed by the sight of the celebrities the 23-year-old actress-models from Los Angeles saw stroll by.

"Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson were amazing. But the guys all said Scarlett isn't as hot in person," says Barulich.

"Hilary Swank was beautiful in real life though, just gorgeous. And so sweet! She came up to us in the bleachers and said, 'Aren't you cold? I am'." Park says.

Elton's bash

Who needs a ticket to the Academy Awards? There was plenty of star-watching at Sunday's 19th annual Elton John Foundation Oscar viewing dinner party at the Pacific Design Center.

Among those who showed up early to put away a few cocktails were Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, director John Waters and new "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler.

Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, kept busy schmoozing.

"Our baby is at home with the nanny," Furnish says, answering inquiries about the couple's newborn son, Zachary.

The party was as dressed up as the guests, featuring floor-to-ceiling curtains, mustard-colored love seats and a wide-mirrored floor. The latter provided a navigational challenge to women wearing short skirts.

An ebullient Furnish said this has been a special time for him and John.

"We have the No. 1 movie in the country, 'Gnomio and Juliet,' and we have this Oscar party, so it's a great time," he said.

Furnish is co-producer of "Gnomio and Juliet," which topped the box office this weekend, and John is executive producer.

Average Joes

Forget the Governor's Ball, the fancy-schmancy parties, even the red-carpet bleachers. If you were an average Joe who really wanted to see stars at Sunday's Academy Awards, the Hollywood International Youth Hostel was a prime place to be.

The hostel, where bunk beds go for US$25 a night, provided stunning bird's eye views of Oscar pageantry outside the Kodak Theatre.

And the place wasn't even full. "Hugh Jackman!" a girl screamed as she pressed against a second floor window.

"Where? Where?" someone asked in Portuguese.

"I really want to see Natalie Portman. There's something about her. She really stands out, and not just because she's pregnant," says Lee Bentum, 23, of Ontario, Canada.

Cedric Maruani, a 27-year-old actor from Marseilles, France, stood on a table holding a plastic Oscar statuette like the ones they sell at the souvenir shops downstairs.

"Thank you, thank you everyone! Merci beaucoup," said Maruani. "One day I'll be on the red carpet, too."


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