Confessions of a Red-Carpet Widow

updated 03/15/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/15/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Imagine your worst humiliation. Now imagine that feeling squared. That's what it's like to be a red-carpet widow.

I am a normal person. I like watching Survivor. I read the newspaper. I wear comfortable shoes. But I am married to someone who lives half his life in an abnormal world—a world where beautiful people cavort and the wine flows like Evian, which flows like Fiji Water. My husband is a film producer—an Academy Award-winning film producer. As a pair, we've attended numerous premieres, countless black-tie events, several Golden Globes and two Oscar shows.

And each time, I am reminded that I am a nobody. You have no idea how much effort it takes to be a nobody. Two years ago, when my husband, Brian Grazer, was nominated for Best Picture for A Beautiful Mind, after I congratulated him, tears of joy running down my face (perhaps because it was 5:30 in the morning), I was seized by another, even stronger emotion: abject fear. What was I going to wear? And how was I going to fit in that thing I was going to wear? Who would do my hair? How does one go about getting hair that one wants done? Who would do my makeup? Who would do my plastic surgery? See, even though I am a card-carrying member of the Society of Nobodies, I am just as vain as the next green-light movie star.

I embarked on a mission to make me a Somebody. Or at least look like a Somebody. Or at the very least look like a nobody who Somebodys are willing to hang out with.

I increased my workout schedule to three times a week with Valerie Waters, the personal trainer—you may have seen her work on the likes of, oh, Cindy Crawford (perhaps you've heard of her) or Jennifer Garner (perhaps you've seen Valerie's initials etched into Jennifer's biceps on Alias). Valerie guaranteed that I would have my pre-baby body back before the Oscars. But that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted Cindy's pre-baby body.

The second consideration was the dress. There's something you should know about me if we're going to be best friends. I hate shopping. But I love new clothes. Therefore I had to come to peace with entering a boutique or department store—I wanted a dress with clean, simple lines; I wanted elegant; I wanted sleek. And I wanted all of this without hyperventilating, which is what shopping does to me.

At this point I wanted to sit at home watching the Oscars, pizza sauce dripping on my sweats. Instead I phoned my friend Crystal, who worked for Ralph Lauren. She offered to dress me (for the record, I may have begged—one forgets) in Ralph Lauren for the Oscars, which, short of my wedding day and the days my children were born—oh, and the day I discovered Krispy Kreme doughnuts—was the happiest day of my life. I came down right away. I knew that other women—famous, fancy, thin, fabulous women—were looking at the same dresses. I wanted to beat them and beat them to the punch.

I settled on a stunning beaded slip dress. The dress was everything I wanted—elegant, beautiful. I felt like a queen. Or at least the queen's youngerish, shopping-phobic sister.

Crystal had arranged for somebody from Martin Katz to meet me at the store with appropriate jewelry. I selected a delicate pair of diamond earrings—the perfect accessory for the perfect dress.

I had my eyebrows shaped. I was waxed until I resembled an apple in the produce section of your local upscale supermarket. I had a manicure and a pedicure. I had lost 5 lbs. and gained red highlights. The only thing I hadn't done was a nose job, but that's only because I don't think nose splints are officially black-tie.

Come Oscar morning, I was ready. The first thing I did was make sure I ate breakfast—my first Oscar show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for which Brian was nominated for Apollo 13, I was too excited and hadn't eaten all day. And then, halfway through the show, after having one drink at the bar downstairs, I ran into Jim Carrey and insisted that he had brought me as his date; later, as I tried to maneuver myself past a row of tuxedoed, bejeweled people and into my seat, I stepped on Donald Trump's foot and complimented his pants. Drinking on an empty stomach is as dangerous and stupid for me as frolicking, baby in hand, with a hungry crocodile.

So after being plucked, sucked, pushed, scraped, pinched (did I mention the stilettos?) and pulled, I sat in our limo, legs ramrod straight out in front of me, lest my dream dress wrinkle, and tried not to move for 45 minutes while we made our way to the Kodak Theatre. I can't remember if my husband was nervous, because I dared not move my head to look at him. Forty-five minutes later we drove up Highland, passing crowds of people, their necks craning for a glimpse of someone—anyone—famous, their disposable cameras at the ready.

Do you know what it feels like to disappoint crowds of people? As the door to our limo opened, I heard a collective sigh, a deep resonant sound like the air being let out of several hundred monster-truck tires. "It's nobody," I heard someone shout as I made my appearance. I ducked, fearful of being attacked for having the audacity to attend the show in my nonfamous state.

Thankfully, my husband poked his head out a moment later, and the sight of his spiky hair was enough to keep them at bay. We made our way down the red carpet, where he was interviewed, while I waited patiently and painfully (did I mention the stilettos?), slowly sinking into a stiff, freezing (the dress was not exactly made of shearling) comatose state. It's at these moments that I master the art of sleeping with my eyes open and my mouth stretched in a rictus grin, my head filled with meditative thoughts like "It will all be over soon" and "Remember, your husband brought a Power Bar."

This skill is not as easy as it sounds. You may have glimpsed a small portion of my rather large head—my husband gripping my waist, pulling me in as tall blonde perfections peppered him with questions like "What's it like to work with Russell Crowe?" and "Is Tom Hanks as nice as he seems?"

Mostly I wait on the sidelines.

Occasionally there is the moment when lights flash and photographers call your name and you stand there, blinded and overwhelmed with gratitude—and then, just as they're asking you who you're wearing and how to spell your name, Nicole Kidman has exited her limo behind you and a roar goes up, unmatched by any since Christians were thrown to the lions, and your moment is lost.

But you don't care. Because you turn to look at her. And she's amazing, a blaze of pale skin and delicate hues, and then there's Julia Roberts, her smile incandescent against the dramatic blackness of her dress, and Jennifer Lopez making a fun fashion statement with big, '60s-inspired hair—unmistakable, genuine joy on her face. And the pain leaves your feet, and you forget that you are cold and hungry and that your knees are shaking. Because this is the most exciting time that you can ever remember having, and you are one very, very lucky nobody.

Gigi Levangie Grazer is the author of Maneater.

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