‘Recluses’ on the red carpet

There’s one question about Oscar Weekend that continues to puzzle me. To wit: Why is everyone everywhere?

The Big Stars supposedly have become reclusive types, timorous about the press, the paparazzi, “Entertainment Tonight,” bloggers and even their own agents and lawyers.

Given this paranoia, why does every star seem to show up at every event during the course of Oscar Weekend? I don’t mean just the Oscar ceremony — some stars duck that event — but rather the glitzy gatherings surrounding the Academy Awards. Events such as The Night Before Party, Ed Limato’s and Barry Diller’s annual ingatherings, Dani Janssen’s long-standing dinners, Vanity Fair’s boisterous bash, and on and on. I’m surprised they don’t still turn up at Irving Lazar’s, even though he’s been dead 12 years. So why does this supposed reclusiveness disappear completely during the course of a single weekend?

My theory: The “Actor as Recluse” notion is a myth, perpetuated by paranoid press agents who’re overly intent on protecting their turf. In reality, stars love schmoozefests. They stay until all hours.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s fun to trade war stories with other actors. And, despite the mythology, it’s delicious to get all that attention. As Peter Bogdanovich pointed out in his recent book, “Who The Hell’s In It?”, “actors lead a see-saw life,” which consists of intense, almost familial bonding on a film shoot, followed by instant and permanent separation.

Given this life of fleeting and ephemeral relationships, Oscar weekend, therefore, turns out to be a delightful reunion. The swag is flowing, red carpets unfurling, cameras popping — and a few awards are also distributed just to cap things off. Who in his right mind would stay home in a week like that?

* * *

Since Jeff Gannon, or James D. Guckert as he is really named, seems washed up at the White House, surely there can be a role for him at a talent agency. A key attribute of agenting is the ability to create instant access and credibility, and Guckert clearly shows promise.

Though devoid of legitimate credentials, he sold himself to the FBI and gained admission to all White House press conferences. The Bush administration came to favor him as a dependable outlet for exclusive stories. Indeed, he was often recognized at news conferences ahead of reps from the major media organizations.

Sure, Guckert was a risk taker, but that didn’t seem to hurt his access. According to the Washington Post, he created porn Web sites, offering himself as a gay escort. He even ran explicit photos of himself online. Since the Bushies seemed oblivious to all this, surely prospective clients in Hollywood would be equally unfazed.

After all, what Jeff Gannon (a good Hollywood name) has going for him is aggressiveness and a limitless appetite for self-invention. If he’s willing to clean up his politics, and his Web site, he could go far in show business.

* * *

An article by Variety‘s Gabriel Snyder last week about the supposed decline of the R-rated picture managed to cause a stir.

Ideologues were quick to applaud the story, claiming that Hollywood is starting to clean up its act. Some filmmakers disputed the data, however, suggesting that the ratings gurus are granting PG-13 ratings to films that would have been sure R’s a couple of years ago. That’s the real reason why the R club has dwindled from 212 to 147 over five years.

A few exhibitors also questioned the basic data — but on other grounds: They point out that many teens sneak into R pictures at their megaplexes, buying a ticket to a PG-13 film while infiltrating, say, “Constantine,” which got an R. If true, the whole discussion becomes academic.

My conclusion is that all three hypotheses are probably valid and that none of it matters much. It’s commendable that filmmakers, prodded by their distributors, are trying to soften the raw edges of their films. But if the studios, reacting to indecency pressures and “tittiegate,” are discouraging responsible and provocative R-rated films from being made, that would be daunting.

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