Jimmy could hardly sit still. This is the biggest night of his life. His whole career is riding on this one evening and he feels ready to explode.
Of course, no one looking at him would know that. He’s been in the biz long enough to know, never to show his emotions. That’s what scripts and make up and cameras are for. Don’t forget cameras. Without cameras we’d have nothing. None of us. None of this.
Jimmy loves the cameras. And the cameras love him.
Just smile. You gotta smile. Who wouldn’t? It’s such a circus. How can you not smile? Make it real.
Yes. It is almost too much. The theater is filled with so many people he’s known for so long. Some of them friends. Many competitors. But there is a mutual respect, or Jimmy liked to think so, between long time collaborators. Even when you strive for a job against so many talented people. Someone has to get it. Better when it’s you, but like the Duke used to say, “Catch the next wave.” There’s always another job, another wave, another Oscar. Until there’s not.
But tonight! Oh boy! Walking up that red carpet. He’s made that trip before, but tonight, they were watching him. Everyone knew Jimmy. Everyone wants to grab his hand. Pat him on the back. Take a picture. Be seen with Jimmy! It is grand. Grand to be Jimmy.
And the women! So many beautiful women! And the clothes. Jimmy has never seen such dresses! Each one more extravagant than the one before. Who wears such stuff? Actresses! They can get away with it. Do you know how many poor children you could clothe with the fabric in that one dress? Is that a dress? Or a house?
Oh, and look at her. Excuse me. You look cold. Does your mother know you went out naked? Your goosebumps have goosebumps. Maybe Dame Whatshername will lend you some of her train with which to cover yourself.
Even tomorrow, when they do the postmortems on the evening and cat about this ugly dress, or that worst look. Hey! Shut up. They were on the carpet. They had the good seats. They were the ones the paparazzi were calling to. Where were you? Lame bastards.
Men are smart enough not to compete on the fashion front. Hopefully, they remember to wear pants. And the tux sleeves aren’t too short. That’s about as daring as the men get. Try to look dignified in the midst of all this brouhaha. They want people looking at their faces, not the clothes. What the men really want is to stand beside a beautiful woman. They really don’t need more than that, when the cameras are flashing. That is plenty, thank you.
A man can look like a toad, but if he’s standing next to a babe? Who cares? He’s a toad with good taste in women. “Look at that beautiful woman with the pet toad!” More power to him. Maybe later, when she kisses him, he’ll turn into a prince.
And the paparazzi. How many flashes can you stand? It’s enough to give you a seizure. Yikes! Take it easy guys. I’ll hold the pose… That’s it? How about one more? A money shot. Get it.
Here comes the interview. “Hey! How are you? Blah. Blah. Stunning!”
“Thank you. Hey, I love your blah, blah. How do you do that?”
“Oh, it’s blah. Got it from my mother, blah. But enough about me. How do you feel tonight? Is this your night?”
“I feel great. I know I did my best and I trust the Academy and the gods that be, to touch those most deserving. I’m just so honored, blah.”
“Well, I don’t want to jinx you. Ha, ha!”
“And blah, blah to you too! Ha, ha!” Smooch!
Jimmy looks around at all the people. And not just people, famous people! He never dreamed. Of course he always dreamed. But to be here is something he could hardly envision. Talk about a cast of thousands.
Look at the sets! They dropped a few dimes on this. Every year it out does every expectation. So much talent. And so much talent that never gets a nod. A name on a list at the end of the show. How many people work to make this come off? It is incredible!
Oh! And there she is. If he owes it to anyone, it is to his co-star. Jimmy knows he wouldn’t have the nomination if not for her. They call it acting, but those scenes with her — well, they forgot about the cameras. Twenty people standing around and they were alone.
She is staggeringly beautiful to Jimmy. Not cliché ‘stunning’. Not merely gorgeous. ‘The original knock-out’ is how Jimmy puts it. And none of the distracting frippery about her dress. Simple, pure class. Elegance defined. Of course nothing could disguise her classic looks.
Jimmy tells people, thousands of years from now, scholars will debate ‘What was she really like?’
Jimmy regrets, they couldn’t make a go of it, off set. He thought they were really in love. It was a movie, silly. Jimmy got taken, like all the rest. “It’s called ‘acting,’ Jimmy,” he chuckles to himself. And she is an actress through and through.
He catches her eye and she nods with that little smile of hers that makes him melt inside. It was just for him.
But she doesn’t come over. No time for that. Who’s the new heartbreak escorting her tonight? Some surfer she discovered? Or Tony, her PR hack, shoe-horned into the program? Cue Hollywood Hairboy #3. Action!
Jimmy hopes for his sake, he’s got the stuff to land on his feet. He’ll need it. Jimmy walked that gauntlet. Good luck!
Smiling people stroll by. They offer their hands, embraces, kisses on the cheek. Some of them mean it.
The orchestra is starting up! Here we go. Batten down the hatches. Jimmy’s getting an Oscar tonight! “Don’t let it slip through your fingers, boy.”
Jimmy looks at his notes. Short and sweet. Sincere thanks. Hit all the notes. Humility. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Leave them wanting more. And thank her. She won’t expect that.
Judging by the acceptance speeches, Jimmy knows it will be a long evening. At least until he gives his. Then everyone will wake up. He was all for the third seamstress getting her due. But please don’t let her near the mic.
Jimmy thinks, “Can everyone just shut up and let me have my statue? Enough!”
After a while, Jimmy wonders if he accidentally wandered into a political rally. “Is someone running for president? I thought these were acting awards. Actors don’t have opinions, they have scripts.”
Suddenly, it is time. Jimmy can’t believe it. It all happened so fast. He doesn’t feel ready. Where did the night go?
He keeps repeating the mantra, “Wait to hear your name. Don’t jump up until they say your name.” Jimmy braces himself on the arms of the chair.
The presenters come out. She is one of them. This could be weird. Maybe it will be perfect. Is it a sign? An omen? Jimmy swallows hard.
The presenters stall with some banter. Everyone is laughing. It is excruciating. The man gives her the envelope. She looks directly at Jimmy with that little signature smile. She opens the envelope and the look in her eyes says it all. She says the most beautiful words in the most beautiful voice, “And the winner of the Oscar, for best actor is… Jimmy…”
The crowd goes nuts. She throws the envelope over her shoulder and strides to the edge of the stage to offer her hand to Jimmy as he bounds up the steps. There are screams and whistles as she gives him a passionate kiss. The other presenter makes a big show of breaking them up. It’s pandemonium. Jimmy wipes tears from his eyes as he steps to the mic…
Nurse Salazar tapped Jimmy on the shoulder to get his attention. He looked up at her from his chair with a look of confusion.
“Mr. Jimmy, time for your meds. They’ll help you sleep.”
Jimmy looked at the television. The end credits streamed by. The big music reached its crescendo. Then Jimmy remembered the golden statue, cradled on his lap.
The nurse continued. “Everyone in the home gets so agitated. Every year, it’s the same.” She smiled down at Jimmy. “You want me to take that for you? You don’t want to drop Mr. Oscar. I’ll put it back up on the shelf. He’ll be safe there.”
Jimmy surrendered his Oscar with reluctance. In exchange, she gave him a small cup containing some pills.
“Here you go, Mr. Jimmy. These will help you sleep. Would you like to get into bed now?”
Jimmy smiled at her. “Do you want my autograph? You can say you knew me, when.”