Tuxedo pants

hank at vf 2009

Amy Adams, some dude nobody knows, Penelope Cruz, Sean Penn: Vanity Fair Oscar party, 2009

It’s Oscar night again. For the first time in a long time, I’m not in Hollywood, sweating east-coast newspaper deadlines on a west-coast story and then medicating the adrenalin crash with alcohol once I stagger into the afterparties. (See above, courtesy vanityfair.com.) Right about now (11:30 a.m. PST), I’d be putting on my tuxedo for an 18-hour shift.

People ask: Will I miss it?

Hmmm. I’d say my answers moves back and forth on the spectrum between “not really” and “sorta” to “hells-to-the-no.”

Anyhow, I’m excited to see what Amy Argetsinger, Dan Zak and Jen Chaney do with it. In 20 years of general-assignment journalisming, Oscar night is the only thing I’ve ever been assigned to cover over and over (and over and over and over and over — total of 6 overs). Last year was a blast — all deadlines reasonably met and a really fun Vanity Fair party and a Prince concert into the wee hours with Amy — but I could sort of feel it in my bones, that it would be the last one for me.

I can report that my body and mind definitely became accustomed to the usual late-winter escape to Los Angeles for a week or so, and despite a whiff of spring this weekend in D.C., my body and mind are a little WTF? Where’s LA?

See, I would always stretch the Oscar trip into several more days with a feature story assignment or two. One of the best ones I ever did that way was to spend days reporting a long piece in 2004 about the Ambassador Hotel before it was torn down.

I’d also build in some time off, hanging out with Janet Duckworth. Time off in LA is the best kind of time off there is. I am elated to read Dan‘s blog items about rambling around LA this week, before he has to report for after-party duty. If Michael and I had not just had such a perfect trip to LA over Christmas, I’d be more wistful about it.

But let me just say: I don’t know if my tuxedo pants fit at the moment — and I don’t want to know. These pants have been taken in, let out, and taken in a couple of times. The last time (in svelte 2007, they were taken in), the Korean tailor said “Not again. Last time. No more.” So it’s a good thing I’m not going.

Also? More than anyone in my life ever really knows (except Bill Booth and Leslie Yazel, and David Carr, and now Amy Argetsinger), the desperate act of filing copy on Oscar night — and everything leading up to it and immediately after it — is really hard. Not “Baghdad bureau hard,” but much harder than you’d ever guess.

This year, I’m still on the horrible Oscar night deadline, but in a different way: I’ll be in the Post newsroom tonight, watching the TV broadcast and writing a review.

One of these future Oscar nights, I vow: Couch, sweatpants, green-chile queso & chips, and not a laptop or a notebook in sight.

PS: I forgot to mention my favorite part about covering Oscars. Getting up, hung over, driving over to Bill Booth’s house to write the afterparty story for Tuesday’s paper. Always a brisk, cool, sunny morning. All the windows and doors open in Bill and Annie’s house. Dogs happy. Sitting at the kitchen table and calling out laugh lines to Bill.

Well, his life has changed, too. He’s the Mexico bureau chief.  Last year, while I was setting up in the press room at the Kodak theater (with Amy), Bill sent a note from Tijuana, where, he said, “the teenagers are pregnant with Oscar anticipation.” Haha. This year? He’s in Port-au-Prince: Check out his dispatch on rubble today. Bill was the zenmaster of Oscar reportage. He’s good at everything.

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