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Fans camp out for Oscar glitz

LOS ANGELES — With hours to go before Hollywood's big night — the Oscars — fans hustling to make the scene around town converged on the Shrine Auditorium where the event is staged and at the glitzy parties over the weekend.

Outside the Shrine, movie fans have pitched red, purple and green tents atop a concrete sidewalk just to be the first people filling bleachers along the famous red carpet that the likes of Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, Juliette Binoche and Kate Hudson will stroll up Sunday afternoon.

They have been camping out for days, these film fanatics, just to see the stars.

"It's, like, a once in a lifetime chance, and it's so accessible we were, like, 'why not go and do it?,' " said Lindsay Peters, a college student from San Diego who had traveled to Los Angeles with four of her school friends.

The girls dubbed themselves the "Almost Famous Girls," after Cameron Crowe's movie "Almost Famous," for which he is nominated for best original screenplay and for which Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand have been given nods for best supporting actress.

But the ladies see it more as a moniker describing just how close they'll be to all that talent walking down the carpet.

"We'll be 'Almost Famous.' Get it?," quips Lindsay's friend Penny Floate. Yeah, Penny, Got it.

They've even made up sweatshirts that read "Almost Famous Girls" to capture the attention of the hundreds of TV cameras on hand at the red carpet. They've already been on television—Penny's aunt called to tell her she had seen her on the local news.

Behind them, about 15 tents or so, was Austin, Texas, native Tommy Korioth, who has been cruising the nation's highways in his car seeing the country and just got the itch to head to Tinseltown and see some stars.

"I don't really like the movies. I'm a professional stalker," Korioth joked, "and I thought, well, there are so many stars out there on the carpet that if I came here, I wouldn't have to stalk again until next year."

And he was joking, which is important for the security surrounding "Gladiator" star Crowe — the best actor nominee who the FBI recently revealed might be the target of kidnappers.

Incidentally, most of the fans lined up outside the Shrine are betting on Crowe for best actor over close rival Tom Hanks for "Cast Away." And Julia Roberts for "Erin Brockovich" was the odds-on favorite in the best actress race.

Deseret News graphicDNews graphicOscar NomineesRequires Adobe Acrobat.

But like many Hollywood pros, the fans seemed divided on which film would be the year's best picture, with "Gladiator" given the best chance, followed by "Traffic," then "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." It seemed few had seen "Chocolat," and "Brockovich" just didn't make the grade.

"The Oscar nominations are a great example" of inclusion, "Chocolat" producer David Brown told reporters Friday. "You've got 'Traffic.' You've got 'Gladiator.' You've got 'Crouching Tiger.' You have great diversity there. It isn't the same old song, and I think that's very healthy."

Brown, a long-time Hollywood insider and producer of movies like "Jaws," "Cocoon" and "Driving Miss Daisy," likes the chances of "Gladiator" for the best picture award.

"It was a smart movie, it isn't like the old 'Ben Hur.' It's smarter than that. Russell Crowe is great, and it's very entertaining," Brown said. He felt his own film, "Chocolat," had little chance because many critics panned it.

"I used to be a critic so I can say this, and I've always felt critics have a bias against mainstream, successful movies, and movies with happy endings. Whether they're bitter about something or not, I don't know," he said with a shrug.

It's a good bet that Brown and his wife, Cosmopolitan magazine's Helen Gurley Brown, will be on hand for the Oscars and the Governor's Ball that takes place just after the show.

Vanity Fair, again, will capture many of the stars Sunday with its annual bash at Morton's, and just around the corner in West Hollywood Elton John's party at Moomba, too, will be a place to see and be seen.

Sony Pictures is the only studio holding a party Oscar night. Most of the studios this year chose to honor their films Saturday because in past years there have been too many parties and too few stars to go around.

Imagine that, too few stars in Hollywood!

Miramax Films celebrated "Chocolat" at the Beverly Hills Hotel Saturday, and DreamWorks was in Beverly Hills at Spago to back "Gladiator." Universal Pictures staged a "Brockovich" party at El Cielo, also in Beverly Hills, and not to be left out, the cast of "Traffic" dropped by Chadwick in — you guessed it — Beverly Hills.

Ah, to be a star. It sure beats being an "Almost Famous Girl," camped out on a concrete sidewalk.