This is a very different version of a post I first wrote in March, 2005. I have edited it so much since I posted it earlier tonight it’s way different than it was then!
Every year I would practice my Oscar acceptance speech until it was beyond perfect. Of course I was never sure what category I was practicing for, but still…Best actress was a great default. There are two writing categories. I had speeches written for all three categories and sometimes best film.
My sister and I were always allowed to stay up for the Oscars. Always. And we dressed for the occasion. Sometimes our mother put full make up on us.
We weren’t allowed to watch much TV, but we were expected to watch any big historical event. And the Oscars were historical events. I know because my father called it one.
Almost 23 years ago I was speaking to my father:
“Going to watch the Oscars?”
Me: “No it was a long day; think I’m going to sleep.”
I was in training to be an SSI Claims Rep. It took me an hour and a half to get to training and a bit more to get back. Training was difficult but I excelled at it. It was just so damn brain draining. I had to get up at 4:30. I needed to go to sleep early.
“You have to watch the Oscars; it’s history.”
My father was not a big TV watcher. After Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Soap he couldn’t find anything he liked except for late night TV which he had always loved.
When I was young he woke me up to watch Jack Paar cry; He was retiring and Johnny Carson was taking over. I know now that was in October 1962. I remember nothing more about it.
The astronauts landed on the moon on my 19th birthday, July 19, 1969. I was home for the weekend and couldn’t care less about the moon landing.
I had always known there would be a moon landing one day. I didn’t know I would spend the night of my 19th birthday with my parents since my boyfriend stood me up. That was a newsworthy event, I thought.
In the 1980’s my father called and asked to meet me for lunch. I went to The Great American Health Bar, his hang-out and he told me he was going to be in an MTV commercial.
“Uh Pia, what’s MTV?”
“It’s a TV station that only plays rock videos.”
“No Pia you’re wrong. No station can play rock videos 24 hours a day.”
I argued with him for the hell of it though I knew it was hopeless. He would believe what he wanted to believe. I hope he knows ultimately he was right : )
The New York Times reviewed the series of commercials he was in. They consisted of “real people” holding MTV signs that dissolved into cartoons. The Times particularly liked my father. They called him “an archetype successful middle-aged businessman.” He loved that review as at 72 he was a bit past middle-aged. Or maybe not. Maybe he was just ahead of his time.
I couldn’t help teasing him. “You always taught us not to trust anything we read in The Times.”
Usually he would have been at his poker game on Monday nights, the night the Oscars were on in 1991 but it had been changed to Thursday. So he had time to call me and drive me crazy over watching a stupid award show.
I didn’t watch the 1991 Oscars, on March 25; my father did.
He spent all breakfast complaining to my mother about Kevin Costner who for some reason symbolized all the worst of my generation to him. Dances with Wolves had swept the Oscars and I can only imagine the one-sided conversation my father had with my mother.
He was a CPA; it was the height of tax season, Tuesday, March 26 was my parents wedding anniversary, and Passover, my father’s favorite holiday, was four days away.
Until several years before then we would have 35-40 people at my parents’ house. They were fun holidays, but my parents were getting older; people were having kids and beginning new traditions. It was the first time my father couldn’t get excited about Passover.
He went down to his office. My mother was leaving for some organization or another. She called his name. There was no answer, and then she found him, in his office, slumped over his desk. He had a massive stroke and died five days.
I have forced myself to watch the Oscars every year since 1991; just in case somebody I know gets deathly sick the next day. More to the point I hear my dad’s voice telling me to watch it.
And no I don’t hear voices. My father and I had a non-stop conversation forever. The last conversation we ever had was an argument over the Oscars.
I no longer feel sick over that. People have had much worse last conversations.
I love movies more than many people. Though since The Sopranos TV has become increasingly important to me. Great stories can delve so deeply. (I gave in and have every cable station and a Roku.)
I have lifetime subscriptions to entertainment magazines and feel zilch guilt. It’s only the Oscars that make me twinge.