Chapter One of Not a Fairy Tale took me longer to write than almost the rest of the book (warning: slight exaggeration).
In this chapter, actress Nina Alexander is at the Vanity Fair Oscar after party, doing her best to keep smiling after losing out on the Best Supporting Actress award, when she meets Dominic Kelly, the stuntman who worked on her previous film, Pirate's Revenge (in my book To Catch a Star). One rejected proposal and one wardrobe malfunction later, and Dom steps in to rescue her from utter humiliation. Cue the start of their romance...
Since this chapter is set at a very real and very famous event, I had to make sure I got the details right. So in the interest of accuracy, I spent a LOT of hours watching footage and sifting through images of celebrities on the red carpet.
Vanity Fair's star-studded party on Oscar night has been the hottest ticket in town since 1994. People have been known to offer up their first born to get their grubby paws on a ticket (okay, another slight exaggeration. I hope.) In 2009 the venue moved from Morton's, the restaurant of choice for Hollywood's power players, to The Terrace at Sunset Tower Hotel.
Cameras and cell phones are banned inside the party (only the official VF cameramen are allowed to take pictures) so it was hard to piece together the layout of the venue, how the security works (which I uncovered thanks to a Gawker paparazzo who blogged about how he sneaked into a previous year's party), protocols, what food they serve... No sooner did I have a handle on it, then Vanity Fair announced the 2014 party would be in a completely different venue to accommodate the growing guest list.
I had to start all over again.
The new party venue was a custom-built structure raised in the car park at Sunset Plaza, consisting of three main areas: a dining room where dinner was served during a live screening of the Awards ceremony (exclusive to only a very limited number of guests), the main party venue, and an outdoor terrace overlooking the city where guests could get a breath of fresh air.
As an added bonus, in the car park out back late night revellers who felt peckish could grab a bite from the In-N-Out burger truck or the Nespresso food truck. (All free of course, because how could you possibly expect the world's wealthiest celebrities to pay for anything?!)
And then I got really lucky: Vanity Fair posted a video detailing the entire erection of the custom built venue, interviews with the architect, designer, chef... even glimpses of the menu being prepared.
You can watch the video here:
One of my favourite fun facts I uncovered researching this chapter was the hierarchy of admissions. VF's invitations carry a strict admittance time, and only Oscar nominees can get away with defying their allotted arrival time. The earlier your arrival time, the higher ranked you are. Those who crack an invitation to dinner are highly privileged, those whose invitations are for after midnight (when the press photographers flocked outside are too tired and disinterested in taking your picture) either haven't made it yet or are past their sell-by date.
If you enjoy Hollywood glamour, check out this reporter's half hour window on the party to end all parties, the designer's gallery, and the official Vanity Fair slideshow.