Oscars 2023: Two decades on the Vanity Fair party red carpet

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Colin Paterson holding an Oscar

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BBC correspondent Colin Paterson is heading to LA to cover his 20th Oscars for BBC Radio 5 Live

By Colin Paterson

Entertainment correspondent

This week, I am heading to Hollywood for my 20th Oscars. To put it crassly, I am now only one behind Meryl Streep.

Johnny Carson, who hosted the ceremony five times, perfectly described the Academy Awards as "two hours of sparkling entertainment spread out over a four-hour show".

There is so much truth in that, but The Oscars are still a gold head and shoulders above any other awards show - the only one where everybody turns up. Even Eminem. Eventually.

A no-show in 2003 when Lose Yourself won best original song (he was looking after his daughter and slept through the whole thing), there he was in 2020 with a surprise performance of his 8 Mile anthem on the rather contrived 17th anniversary of its win.

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Eminem eventually performed his Oscar-winning single Lose Yourself at the Oscars in 2020

No matter how cool or counter-cultural the figure, in the end they all want to go.

Part of the beauty of covering the Oscars is the time difference. UK audiences wake up on a Monday morning, while over in LA it is still Sunday evening, and the winners are heading into the uber-A-list Vanity Fair party, holding Oscars in their hands.

Over the years, I have broadcast as Danny Boyle danced for joy with the cast of Slumdog Millionaire, congratulated Kate Winslet on no longer being the "Colin Montgomerie of the Oscars" after winning for The Reader, following five defeats in a row, and, in 2011, I witnessed a truly extraordinary encounter involving GMTV's reporter and Tom Hanks.

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Oscars 2023: The best picture contenders in 40 seconds

She was mid-interview with him, live on TV, when Colin Firth started to walk by, brandishing his Oscar for The King's Speech. Her decision? Simply to push Tom Hanks away mid-sentence and grab Firth.

Hanks' response was magnificent. He spent the whole of Firth's interview walking back and forth, in shot directly behind him, throwing his hands up in the air in pretend fury, while mouthing his mock incredulity at the camera.

Then in 2017, there was the excitement of being live on air into Dotun Adebayo's Radio 5 Live show, at the exact moment (05:08), when La La Land was wrongly read out as the best picture winner.

Listening back, what is extraordinary is that it takes 2 mins 27 secs for the mistake to be corrected.

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La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz showing the audience the card with the correct best picture winner - Moonlight - in 2017

I thought that would never be beaten as the biggest Oscars story I would cover, but I was wrong. As wrong as a G.I. Jane joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

That is what prompted Will Smith to attack Chris Rock on stage at last year's ceremony, with "the slap heard around the world".

I commentated on Radio 5 Live Breakfast as Smith arrived at Vanity Fair, posing for pictures with his family, for a full five minutes. On air I dubbed the incident "Men in Thwack", a name which totally failed to catch on.

Smith is currently banned from attending the Oscars until 2033, by which time Clint Eastwood will be 102. That year could be my 30th Oscars. Unlikely.

So now seemed as good a time as any to reveal the five nominees in my newly made-up category: best Oscars story.

1. 'Bono! Bono! Bono!' (2014)

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Bono with wife Ali Hewson at Vanity Fair's after-party in 2014 - where Colin Paterson struggled to catch his attention

On 2 March 2014, the Russian President Vladimir Putin received unanimous approval from the country's parliament to send troops into Crimea.

The following day it was me, not that event, which was the subject of an editorial in the Daily Telegraph.

The reason? I had shouted "Bono" a lot, live on Radio 4's Today programme. I have just listened back, with a stopwatch. There were 7 Bonos in eighteen seconds.

U2's frontman had been nominated in best original song for the Nelson Mandela biopic, Long Walk to Freedom.

Today's presenter, Jim Naughtie, threw live to me in LA, where the red carpet was a melee of movie stars.

I had just started my analysis about how Gravity had won the most awards, but 12 Years A Slave was best picture, when Bono arrived. And I went for it. Again and again.

"Even 24 hours later, many listeners' toes remain stubbornly curled," The Daily Telegraph's editorial began.

It went onto explain how my "cries of 'Bono!' had no more effect than Alan Partridge shouting after his presumed friend Dan," and made the fair point that, "the rule seems to be that six times or more is enough to open the gates of the realm of madness."

The thing that people forget is Bono did come back. Unfortunately, all he said was, 'I don't want to talk about what Nelson Mandela meant to me." Not an answer worth seven shouts of anyone's name.

2. Sandra Bullock's wins Oscar and Razzie (2010)

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Sandra Bullock with her Oscar for The Blind Side at the 2010 Vanity Fair Oscars Party

For many of my years reporting on The Oscars, the night before the ceremony was all about the Razzies. These awards "honour" the very worst films of the year and used to be presented during a live show, which all the "winners" avoided.

In 2010 Sandra Bullock managed what no one had ever done; to win a Razzie and an Oscar on consecutive days.

There I was in a local community theatre in LA, watching film geeks laugh as they proclaimed her worst actress for All About Steve, a supposed romantic comedy, in which she played a disco-boot-wearing crossword compiler, obsessed with a local TV reporter (played by a pre-fame Bradley Cooper), with whom she ends up trapped down a mine. It is worse than it sounds.

The huge surprise was that she turned up to collect her Razzie, receiving a standing ovation from the very people who had voted for her awfulness.

Bullock's acceptance speech was hilarious: "They said that no-one went to see this film, but I know there are over 700 members here. And if I've won, that means the majority have to have voted for it, so that means 352 have seen it."

Bullock then wheeled on a cart, full of All About Steve DVDs and announced that she was going to give one to each person there.

"Thank you," came a shout from the audience.

"You say that now…" she replied with superb comic timing, something badly missing in the film.

The following night she won best actress for The Blind Side. When I spoke to her afterwards, I wanted to bring up the unique double without being rude, so opted for: "How close will you keep your Oscar to your Razzie?"

Her answer was class: "Right next to each other. It's all about the balance."

3. Steve Guttenberg and The Academy (2001)

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Guttenberg with actress Marlee Matlin at the Oscars in 2008

I covered my first Oscars for Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, way back in 2001, the year Gladiator was named best picture. The presenter Melanie Sykes was dispatched to the Vanity Fair party, where she ended up in a dispute with Julia Roberts, after touching her best actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich.

My job was to go to the Oscar party of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The guestlist was not quite as A-list, so few of my interviews made it to air.

One that did was with the 80s star, Steve Guttenberg. When he arrived, I asked him where he had watched the ceremony.

"I was there at the Shrine Auditorium," he replied.

Failing to hide my surprise I asked: "How did you get a ticket?"

"I'm a member of the Academy," he explained.

My reflex response: "What? The Police Academy?"

Even now I wince when thinking about this and did not bring it up when I next interviewed him, in 2008 when he was playing Cinderella's father Baron Hardup in the Bromley pantomime.

4. Vomity Fair (2012)

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I have a simple rule for when on work trips; do not eat shellfish. In 2012 I broke that rule and never will again.

The day before the Oscars, one of my colleagues hit a milestone birthday and to celebrate, we went to a famous Hollywood restaurant where Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart used to frequent.

To my horror, the incredibly kind cameraman Travis, had organised a huge plate of oysters to start the celebrations. One by one people turned them down and I felt a rising sense of panic. I literally took one for the team and started to eat. They were delicious. What happened 24 hours later, less so.

There I was standing on the red carpet of the Vanity Fair party, when things started to feel very, very wrong. To put it delicately, Vanity Fair became Vomity Fair. The red carpet went all the colours of the rainbow. It is the only time I've seen a squeegee mop at The Oscars.

5. Spike Lee's 'cup of tea' (2019)

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After realising he was speaking to a Brit, Spike Lee said best picture-winning Green Book wasn't his "cup of tea"

In 2019, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman was nominated for best picture. Word spread that when Green Book was announced as the winner, the veteran director had turned his back and left the auditorium in protest.

About 90 minutes later he arrived at Vanity Fair and we tried to get to the bottom of what had happened.

"Green Book seems very similar to Driving Miss Daisy. They just changed the driving positions," was as far as he would go, before I tried once more.

"Is there something about Green Book that offends you?" I asked.

"Offends?" he replied, his eyes suddenly sparkling, knowing he'd come up with something good.

"Are you British?" he asked me.

"Are you British?" he asked the BBC's Dan Johnson who was next to me. We confirmed we both were.

"Then let me give you a British answer," he continued.

"It wasn't my cup of tea."

Lee then let out the most marvellous cackling laugh and hopped around in a circle of self-delight, coming back to our microphones once more to repeat, "not my cup of tea!" whilst waggling a finger, before bouncing off altogether, his work done.

By the next day, T-shirts with his quote were on sale and Trevor Noah chose it as his Moment of Zen on The Daily Show.

The Oscars are not everyone's cup of tea, but come Monday, why not make yourself one, sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

Colin Paterson will be live from the red carpet at the Vanity Fair Oscars Party on both BBC Breakfast and Radio 5 Live Breakfast, Monday 13 March. He will be shouting. A lot.

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