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How I Lost My Oscars Virginity

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 27, 2013 at 5:26PM

Depending on your definition, I either lost my Oscars virginity 72 hours ago or 23 years ago. In terms of full-on Oscars penetration -- a seat inside the ceremony itself -- I was deflowered this past Sunday night.  But less literally, it all went down when I was five years old. I couldn't sleep and came downstairs to find my mother watching something on television. I sincerely remember this moment, asking her what she was watching to the response: "It's a special show where they give out prizes to people in the movies." It was the year "Driving Miss Daisy" won best picture -- coincidentally a win referenced constantly this year because it did so without a best director nomination, a feat that didn't happen again until Michelle Obama read "Argo" from that envelope a few nights ago. I surely had no idea what "Driving Miss Daisy" even was, let alone the even less child-friendly films that it was competing against ("Born on the Fourth of July," "My Left Foot"). But there was one movie nominated that night that I had most definitely seen: "The Little Mermaid."

As for the show itself, I'll admit I was pretty disappointed by a) the offensive and unfunny hosting job by Seth MacFarlane (I don't need to get into that here -- but read this and note that I concur); b) the extremely predictable winners in a year that seemed like it was heading to a very unpredictable finale; and c) the generally lackluster speeches (Jennifer Lawrence was all kinds of awesome backstage, but her actual speech was nothing special).

Our view from the Mezzanine.
Our view from the Mezzanine.

But it's hard to really care when you're in there. I sat still and wide-eyed for the majority of the 3 hour and 35 minute ceremony, getting up only once to investigate who was spending most of the event at the open bar in the lobby. You can leave your seat only during commercial breaks, and thus only re-enter during them as well. So I decided to skip out on about 45 minutes in the middle of the ceremony (missing Barbra Striesand but shhh.... I didn't really care) to enjoy a few glasses of wine alongside Melissa McCarthy, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton. I didn't speak to any of them, or really experience anything noteworthy beyond that. When you find out you have a ticket to the Oscars, it's only reasonable to fantasize about holding Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar while she gets you both a glass of champagne. Or getting Ryan Gosling to hold up a sign that says "Gina, your brother's drunk" that you can then photograph and post on your sister's Facebook page to her amazement and the widespread jealousy of her 1,000 Gosling-hungry Facebook friends. But clearly none of that happened.

Instead, I headed back up to my seat to enjoy the last hour of the show, annoyed that my two great hopes of the night -- that Emmanuelle Riva would win best actress and that Tony Kushner would win best adapted screenplay -- both didn't happen. And then with one word out of Michelle Obama's mouth and a fast-paced (but highly affecting -- it was my favorite of the night) speech from Ben Affleck, it was all over.

Seemingly every exit inside the Dolby Theater said in big letters "Exit Only To The Governor's Ball" (to which I was not invited, but Anne was), so it took forever to finally find my way to the commoner's exit. When I finally did, a confused guard told me I was going the wrong way. 

"Limousine pick-up's over there," he said.

I explained I didn't have a limousine -- or any car for that matter -- and I just need an exit to the street. He looked at me like I was crazy and pointed to an opening in the gate.

An Oscar winner celebrating at the bar.
An Oscar winner celebrating at the bar.

By that point I was starving -- the only food available during the ceremony (at least as far as I could find) were strange little bags of nuts and seeds and individual Hershey's kisses scattered near the bars. So when I finally found my way out of the maze, I figured why not end the night off in style at the In & Out Burger a few blocks away.

Extraordinarily out of place in my now disheveled tuxedo amidst a crowd of mostly teenagers, I waited in line with a significantly increasing desperation to eat what I was smelling.

As I waited for my order, a boy sat down beside me and cautiously kept looking over for clues that I'd attended the Oscars beyond simply my attire. He was probably 15 or 16, sporting an endearing yet unfortunate attempt at a mustache and clutching a skateboard under his left arm. After noticing the access badge in my hand with my photo on it under the Oscars logo, he somehow came to the conclusion I must have worked security at the event.

"Do I really look like I'm the right fit to work security anywhere," I said, feeling those three glasses of wine on an empty stomach. "I weigh like 125 pounds. You could kick my ass and I was probably your age when you were born."

I seemed to win him over with that suggestion because he gave me some sort of complex variation of a handshake, and then I explained I was a journalist who wrote about the Oscars, which inspired into him to give me a passionate rant about who should have won.

"Fucking 'Argo,' man," he said. "I don't fucking get it. I mean, Ben Affleck's pretty cool but that movie wasn't much of anything. 'Zero Dark Thirty,' though -- that movie was out of control! I can't believe Jessica Chastain didn't win. She's the best."

He asked if he could look at the Oscars program book I was clutching in the same fashion he was his skateboard. He started aggressively flipping through the pages and found the fold out photo of all the nominees at the Oscars luncheon.

"Holy shit it's all of them together," he yelled as he took out his iPhone camera, looking at me as if to ask whether I minded. I nodded and smiled as the snapshot sound went off on his phone a good dozen times.

"Man, you're fucking lucky," he said as then took off back to his friends.

My order was called and I grabbed my burger and fries and scarfed them down alone in a booth, looking at the same fold out that my new friend had photographed. I pulled out my own phone -- not to take a photo but to check my messages.  A flood of adorable texts from friends and family came in wondering how it had all gone. The highlight of which was a photo attached from a text my mother had sent me of a "wish list" we'd found in a diary I'd kept in 1991. It read:

1. Marry Winona Ryder.
2. Live in a big city.
3. Go to the Oscars.

My mother's caption: "Two out of three ain't bad ;)"

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