Editor’s Letter: And the winner is … not me

Gwyneth Paltrow wins for best actress at the 71st Annual Academy Awards, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion on Sunday, March 21,1999.
Gwyneth Paltrow wins for best actress at the 71st Annual Academy Awards, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion on Sunday, March 21,1999.
(Paul Morse)

Learning hard lessons when your Oscars dreams come true.


What is your favorite season?


Of the many Moira Rose quips on the TV show, Schitt’s Creek, that one’s the most me.

My favorite season is also awards — but more specifically I love the Academy Awards: the fashion, the celebrity friendships (Busy+Michelle forever), the awkward show banter … all of it.

But I never imagined I’d ever get to actually go the Oscars and (with apologies to my musical theater friends) be in the room where it happens.

Then, in 2002, the stars aligned in a way that there were no senior Union-Tribune reporters available to cover the awards, and somehow — miraculously — I was next in line.

“You’ll have to cover the red carpet and backstage, can you do it?” my editor, Lee Grant, asked me.

My brain: Ohmygodohmygod, it’s all happening, this can’t be real and if it is real and I’m too excited he’s going to take it away, but also, maybe I will faint from excitement like those crazed Beatles fans?

What I actually said: “Yes, I think I can handle that.”

From my many years watching red carpet shows, I knew reporters (a usually scruffy bunch) went full glamour on Oscars night. So when I saw a light pink gown, very similar to the one Gwyneth Paltrow wore in 1999 when she won Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love, I had to have it.

(I love Gwyneth Paltrow, but that’s a column for another time.)

I prepared for my big assignment by watching all the nominated movies (the year of A Beautiful Mind), and also by practicing my makeup and hair — which I would have to do myself from my hotel room.

Finally, armed with my laptop (which back then was a heavy monstrosity) I crossed the barricades into the center of it all. And it was … overwhelming. Even though I was there hours early, there were already so many lights and people and … OMG the actual red carpet! I really was maybe going to pass out.

There I was in my light pink gown, my best “The Rachel” hairstyle and a pretty good self-applied smoky eye. I was really feeling myself.

“Excuse me,” I asked. “Where does the press go?”

“TV or print?”


I was directed to a set of metal bleachers, the kind you see on a Little League field, where a collection of frazzled reporters were waiting with notebooks and tape recorders. Aside from a few tuxedos, my squad was dressed in black slacks and sensible shoes: clothes for battle, not fun.

They were most definitely judging me. And they never once got starstruck, not when Halle Barry walked by in that sheer dress, not when Gwyneth showed up in full Goth (with a smoky eye like me!!).

The bleacher journalists were there to collect quotes, snap photos, monitor the winners from backstage and write it all in time for the next day’s paper.

And so was I. Which I somehow did. In a fabulous pink gown.

I went back to cover the Academy Awards four more times, always in sensible outfits after that, but never quite figuring out how to not to be starstruck.

—Nina Garin, Editor-in-Chief