The show will go on, at least for now. The organizers of the Academy Awards today canceled the pomp and ceremony of the red-carpet star parade at Sunday's awards, deeming it unseemly in the face of imminent war. But despite rampant rumors and a growing sense of unease in Hollywood, the organizers didn't cancel the 75th award ceremony itself -- at least not yet.
"We felt in light of the circumstances we're in in the world, we needed the show, the party aspect, to reflect the soberness and seriousness of the circumstances we're faced with," said Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in announcing the cancellation of the red carpet at a news conference.
This means: No E!, no Joan Rivers nipping at the heels of Jack Nicholson. No Mary Hart schmoozing Renee Zellweger. No ear-blasting kudos from ancient Hollywood columnist Army Archerd on his special podium. No hundreds of screaming fans parked in the bleachers.
But the Oscars -- presumably barring some military catastrophe -- will go on. "If you're a betting man, the show's gonna be on on Sunday," said telecast producer Gil Cates. "Beyond something that . . . who could guess right now?"
The Academy Awards have been postponed only three times in the past: in 1938 after flooding in Los Angeles shut down the planned ceremony; in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; and in 1981 after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
Neither Pierson nor Cates was willing to speculate on what circumstances might prompt the postponement of Sunday's glitzy celebration, which is seen annually by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world -- this year including troops based in the Middle East, according to organizers.
But clearly the ominous national atmosphere weighed heavily on the organizers' minds. Oscar producers and academy officials had been huddled in a meeting all day, struggling to come up with an appropriate response to impending war.
Pierson worried aloud that the awards could appear "self-serving and frivolous on a night when our troops are in bloody combat," and noted that the whole country is "at the mercy of the winds of war." Translation: Stay tuned.
Postponing the Oscars would create a logistical and financial nightmare both for the Motion Picture Academy and for ABC, the network airing the event, scheduled for Sunday night at 8:30 Eastern time. Celebrities gather from all corners of the moviemaking world for the awards; bringing them all back on a subsequent date would be extremely complicated.
The producers were not the only ones concerned about appearances. Cates said celebrities have been deluging the academy with calls, asking whether they could avoid the red carpet, wondering whether they should tone down the glamour of their clothes.
The calls partly prompted the decision to cancel the red carpet. Said Cates: "It comes to a point where it becomes silly" to have the carpet without very many stars.
The television awards, the Emmys, were postponed twice in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and in that instance some of the originally scheduled presenters did not make it to the ceremony when it finally took place almost two months later.
And then there is the question of the parties. Oscar weekend is the most star-studded, glamorous time on the Hollywood social calendar, filled with private parties and public fundraisers, brunches, lunches, dinners and parties until the wee hours of the day after the telecast.
This year had not been expected to be very different. Ed Limato, the head of the ICM talent agency, is having his barefoot bash on Friday night at his pad in the Beverly Hills mountains. Mogul Barry Diller was still planning his luncheon for his buddy Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair's chief editor. One thousand people were scheduled to come to the Party of All Parties, the annual Vanity Fair blowout at Morton's.
This year Miramax scaled back its annual pre-Oscar Saturday night party to "only" several hundred people, instead of the 1,200 who came last year. But the Weinstein Brothers' studio did plan a huge bash for Oscar night to celebrate what was likely to be a huge haul for its musical "Chicago."
A Miramax spokesman said he doubted that Saturday night's party would be canceled because it's not a lavish public event. But Sunday night, he said, could be scaled back -- "a lot of it will depend on the mood among people attending."
Still, there were some in Tinseltown who remained determined to ignore world events. A fundraiser at the House of Blues sponsored by Los Angeles magazine will go forward come what may, said publicist Scott Hoover. "They're going full steam ahead," he said, noting that this year's gift bags for the guests were worth a whopping $70,000. "There's too much time and stuff invested in this."