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banner Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 18:55 GMT
Breakfast in the bleachers
Bleachers fans
Playing the waiting game - early Sunday morning in LA
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By BBC News Online's
Darren Waters
line

The red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles, was still being cleaned as the first film fans arrived to take their place on the bleachers for the 74th Academy Awards.

The fans filed their way past security at 0700 PST, clutching their tickets like the children in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

It was early, cold and the stars would not arrive for another 10 hours but no-one here was complaining.

"The view is not great but it sure beats a kick in the ass," was the view of one elderly fan, taking his seat.

Sandy Eriksen
First in line: Sandy Eriksen
The lucky 500 had each had to fill in an application form to win their places in the stand - heightened security since 11 September meant the days of camping outside for days had ceased.

The only people to greet them were the early morning reporters for the American TV networks, grins fixed on their faces despite the hour, as well as cleaners, builders and security guards.

'Excited'

The first person to take a place in the stand was Sandy Eriksen who had travelled from San Francisco, a short hop compared to some who had travelled across many states for the occasion.

Wide-eyed at the spectacle of giant Oscar statuettes, albeit covered in protective polythene, lining the red carpet, she said: "I am just so excited to be here.

"I hope I get to see all the stars walking down the red carpet," she said, adding: "I want Russell Crowe to win another Oscar.

Sarah Golden
Sarah Golden has been a bleachers fan for 16 years
"He is just great in A Beautiful Mind."

Second and third onto the bleachers was married couple Tianne and Perry Vittoria, also from San Francisco.

"It was a shock to get the letter from Oscar telling us we had tickets," said Tianne.

"I'm just so unbelievably excited. The only star I ever saw up close was Alan Alda when I was seven," she said.

Celebrity

It was easy to predict that from this day forward she would not need the Alan Alda anecdote any longer.

From 1730 PST onwards she would be able to satiate her thirst for celebrity with some of the biggest stars in the world.

Oscars fans
Oscar looks down on his fans
Each of the lucky fans was given a goody bag from the academy, holding chocolate, a drink, hat, t-shirt and disposable camera.

The fans looked content with their gifts but if anyone was thinking they would have preferred the goody bag given to the Oscar presenters, reported to contain $14,000-worth of presents, they did not voice it.

Tianne was hoping Moulin Rouge would pick up some prizes.

"I'd love Nicole Kidman to win for Moulin Rouge. She needs a good year," she said.

Her husband spoke with more equanimity: "If I don't see any stars I'll be disappointed."

The bleacher fans are a great part of the tradition at the Oscars and share much in common with the long-suffering fans who wait outside the Wimbledon tennis tournament for tickets.

Oscars preparation
Preparations continue outside the Kodak Theatre
They often travel in groups and the first to arrive were the Oscar Chatter pack and the Bleacher Creatures, all sporting the relevant t-shirts.

Hysteria

Sarah Golden took her seat at the bleachers for the 16th consecutive year with all the grace and aura of one of the Hollywood stars of old.

Surveying the red carpet area, she said: "I was born in LA and have always loved movie stars."

"I just love celebrities and I hope Denzel Washington wins," she added.

The bleachers fans are an important part of the Oscar ceremony - without their screaming and hysteria the arrivals onto the red carpet would be less an event and more of a glorified queue.

Thankfully, all of the fans looked in the mood to help the Academy Awards celebrate the return of the Oscars to Hollywood for the first time in 40 years.

The Oscars ceremony is broadcast live on BBC Two on Monday from 0045-0500 GMT and reported live on BBC News Online.

Links to more Oscars 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Oscars 2002 stories