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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 13:52 GMT
Rosie Millard at the Oscars

Arts correspondent Rosie Millard launches her showbiz column for BBC News Online from the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles in Oscar week. Power cuts are dousing the flash hotels in darkness and there may be a film writer's strike on the way, but nothing so tiresome as electricity or social unrest is going to get in the way of the world's biggest award ceremony.

A billion people will be watching across the world, but in America they like to appreciate the show as their own national bash.

According to KTLA's breakfast programme this morning in Los Angeles, come 25 March, 46 million people across the States will be holding their own Oscar parties.

You can even buy boxed sets of DIY Oscar frippery containing a strip of red carpet, a list of nominees, a mini-ostrich feather boa and of course the winner's envelope. So you can play at being Julia Roberts, with the help of a Barbie doll.

Red carpet

Dressed in all the right gear, of course. Across town a myriad of pundits, experts and fashionistas are on hand to advise nominees precisely what the Oscar look means.

Fashion brands such as Jimmy Choo, Vidal Sassoon, and Mac cosmetics have reserved hotel suites to show to anyone who is interested what should be worn this year up the red carpet.

Ah. The red carpet. Press accreditation for the red carpet goes back three rows, although what anyone will be able to see from Row Three is worth pondering.

The red carpet is simply "the most important runway in the world", according to Academy Awards style guru Tom Julian.

So apparently vital is the red carpet to world fashion that Mr Julian has set up a staggeringly detailed history of Red Carpet Fashion on the website

So if you want to know what Candice Bergen wore in 1986 or how evening gowns looked in the 70's, log on.

Monster show

Anyway, back to 2001. Fashion tips which nominees should observe for this year's runway experience are, in ascending order of importance, hand-painted shoes, "body gems" , and a pair of chandelier earrings.

Apparently these last were sported by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson at the Golden Globes this year. Which, according to Joan Parker (no relation) at the Diamond Information Centre, is a seriously heavy hint.

Its come a long way, baby. From a modest award ceremony held in someone's sitting room to a monster experience which swamps a city and holds a billion around the globe in thrall for over nine hours.

The excitement in LA is palpable. From the chandelier earrings to the hotel fashion parades, the vast adverts on Sunset Boulevard, and the acres of meaningless television commentary, Oscar week is inescapable.

It might be madness. It might be commercialised to the hilt. And it is only a silly award which few people will remember in 12 months time.

But as four-time winner Andre Previn adroitly remarked: "You may act all superior, but when that moment comes for the envelopes to be opened, you want it very badly."

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