Here’s the deal. Somehow, you get invited to Hollywood’s biggest night – The Oscars.
Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! So exciting!
You tell your friends then scramble for something even close to appropriate to wear. While it’s not really red carpet-worthy, it’s certainly nicer than that sack you deemed perfect for your own wedding. After seven attempts, you get your hair into just the right shape and spray the shit out of it. (F*ck the environment. This is the Oscars.)
Jewelry? You grab grand-mom’s chunky ring that always seemed too demanding to wear before. Perfect. Then you find baubles with just enough bling to seem like something without flagging that they’re nothing.
You slip into the shoes you’ve dubbed “The Bleeders” and You Are Ready.
The cameras flash. Not at you, but that’s okay. You see this celebrity and that. So cool. They truly have their own gravity. You think, This is why they’re stars. After the crush and clamber, you get to your seat and settle in. Get comfortable. This is the Oscars. It’s going to be a long night.
How could you possibly have known just how long?
As you look this way and that to see which potential statue winner is sitting mere rows away, it happens. A huge white screen drops down right in front of your face. Your view is gone. Your line of sight to the stage is now a total white-out.
That’s when you realize you are the lucky winner of the seat behind Tems.
If you didn’t watch the 95th Oscars (and most likely, you didn’t), then you may not know that singer/songwriter Tems (born Temilade Openiyi in Lagos, Nigeria) wore a dramatic, flowing white dress that sported a huge, head-surrounding cumulus cloud of white tulle. Stunning on the red carpet, perhaps. But in the audience? Crazy.
I did watch the Oscars. I usually do. The second I spotted the enormous white mass hovering in the audience, I about lost my mind. Who would do that? For the rest of the night, I devised speeches that would never be spoken. If I was sitting behind this person, what would I say? Because you have to believe I’d be saying something. And I wouldn’t wait.
How do I know this?
One time I was on a plane from New York to London. I was seated next to a young man who started nervously shaking his leg even before we taxied. This could not go on.
Channeling my mother’s attitude of, “I’m disappointed, but I love you anyway,” I gently put my hand on his leg and said, “I don’t know that you’re even aware you’re doing this, but you keep shaking your leg.” He turned to me with contrition in his voice and said, “Yeah. I’m sorry. My mother is always telling me to stop doing that. If I do it again, just let me know.” Problem solved. For six hours, we were inflight friends.
Now, do I believe that Tems would have been equally contrite in her response to a polite request to lower her strategic, couture obstruction?
Sadly, I do not. I fear there is no way this person wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing, as was her designer. In the world of celebrity where standing out and camera time is a win, this seemed an old fashion cry for attention. And it worked.
Even during the show, people began tweeting about the poor woman behind Tems, craning her neck to see anything. By the next morning, it was picked up all over the web. People were debating over her choice. Many cried rude while fans defended Tem, saying that people should be honored just to be seated that close to such a huge talent.
I wonder if Tems would have felt honored to sit behind Meryl Streep if she was wearing the enormous black hood from The French Lieutenant’s Woman. After all, Meryl is a huge talent.
Bottom line for Tems: Mission accomplished. You put yourself first. And someday, when someone else’s goal obliterates your own, you’ll likely feel undeservedly wronged.
For the poor woman seated behind her, as my father would say, Don’t let them shit on your head. Open your mouth.
For me personally, venting to you all has helped. I can now get on with my day and everything I had to put off until I could unload my annoyance at this display of bad behavior and get it out of my brain.
I can now move on knowing there’s one less person I need to welcome into my foxhole. I have limited space in there and that giant white hood just makes you a target.
The Oscar Speech That Changed Your Life And Other Stuff That Didn't Happen Sunday Night.
Here in the US, Sunday was Oscars night. What did that give us? Everything I expected, and a few things nobody saw coming.
As expected, there was endless coverage of celebs arriving at the venue and talking about earth-shaking matters like their clothing. The phrase, “Who are you wearing?” was asked many times. Nobody answered by saying, “That question literally makes no sense.” Or, “I’m wearing Nancy and boy are her arms tired.”
However, this was the first live Oscar event in two years. People were just itching to trot out or answer that now time-honored question. It’s a question which, if I remember correctly, was first coined by the late Joan Rivers. So OK, we’re back live. “Who are you wearing?” “Nobody you can afford without a second mortgage.” OK!
Next came the expected opening monologue with someone (or paired someones) trying their best to be funny. But now that we’re in a time when being funny is fraught with danger, what might happen? (Try not to flash forward to Chris Rock just yet.) I waited and wondered.
Amy Schumer did a fine job of deflecting danger and stupidity. She starting with self-deprecating humor. Amy pointed out her own full figure, saying “Not Bad for one year after a baby, [applause!] well two, closer to three.” Smart. She made fun of herself, which then allowed her to make fun of others. Careful-ishly. She finished by saying, “I’ll do my best to stay present…until I pass out.”
Amy was then joined by Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall and quipped, “This year the academy hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man.” Big laughs. Seems it’s still safe to make fun of the men. Then, when Wanda referenced Black Twitter. Amy asked, “Black Twitter, what’s that?” Wanda and Regina shook their heads. “No, no. Not for you.” So, also on the Careful-ishly safe list is black people pointing out how not-in-tune white people are. And of course, making fun of the movies themselves is still safe. Wanda joked, “Power Of The Dog. I watched that movie three times and I’m almost half way through it.”
The unexpected touching moments for me included when CODA won awards. Each time, the audience showed their appreciation, signing their applause by fluttering their hands in the air. If you don’t know, the acronym CODA stands for “Children Of Deaf Adults.” And I did love the movie, so that was nice. I’m signing my applause right now, in fact. Can you feel the flutter?
An expected touching moment is the In Memoriam. Strangely, I always look forward to the montage of much-loved people from the film industry who passed away during the last year. It’s like a trip down memory lane. For some reason, I enjoy wrapping myself in the sadness of the loss as if I was close to them. And typing this makes me feel like an idiot for sharing so much. But for me, the touching moment didn’t happen. While they did the In Memoriam segment, there were dancers and singers in front of the on-stage screen showing the montage. This staging completely took away from those being remembered. Bummer.
Then, this was particularly, oddly unexpected: the presentation was stopped three times to pay extra tribute. The tributees were, respectively, Sidney Poitier, Ivan Reitman and Betty White. The feeling was Yes, many Hollywood people died. But these three Hollywood people were the best of the Hollywood dead people. I imagined the families and friends of all the others being remembered watching this slight. How pissed were they? I would have totally called “bullshit” and turned off the show, then thought, “God, I miss Betty White.”
Next, back to the expected: the instructive acceptance speeches by stars informing us of the injustices in our world. Yep, freedom of speech. I’m for it. But why, why, WHY do these very privileged and wealthy people think that if they tell us all about things like prejudice (which by the way, I’m already against), someone at home will say, “Ya know, I been a bigot all my life, but gosh damn, that Brandy Chastain is right. I’m changing my ways, starting now. Quick! Find me a lesbian to hug!”
Up next and most unexpected: Chris Rock and the slap heard round the world. Apparently, Jada Pinkett Smith humor is unsafe and un-careful-ish. So noted. Someone posted this about Will Smith’s assault on Rock: “This kind of behavior is why his mom moved him to his Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air in the first place.” But this unfortunate event has already been over-covered, so I’ll stop there.
What else? Oh, yeah. Liza. Whose idea was that? Liza Minelli was in no condition. But then again… And it seems Lady Gaga’s new job description includes being escort to giant, older stars who are slipping away to supernova. And trust me, I’m not making fun people slipping. I’ve been through it with loved ones. Lady Gaga handled it with grace, offering Liza as much dignity as possible. She could be heard telling the icon, “I got you.” Still, t’was not a Cabaret, ol’ chum.
So, what have we learned? A) Careful who you joke about. Being on national television does not save you from a smackdown. B) Betty White was more important than Olympia Dukakis. C) Brandy Chastain’s statuette acceptance speech will turn the tide on bigotry and hatred. D) At some point, we’ll all want Lady Gaga by our side.
Cheers and stay Careful-ish,
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.