My Oscar Gown's Three Lives

by Mary Granfield
Originally Published: 

It was a bit overwhelming, so when Susan invited me to Gloucester, Massachusetts, to try on vintage gowns from her friend Richard’s store, I agreed. I modeled four, and we all liked a glittery sapphire one the best. Even though blue isn’t my color, the dress fit perfectly and made me feel glamorous. Richard, tickled by the idea that one of his gowns might attend the Oscars, generously offered it free of charge.

© Courtesy Mary Granfield

Writers in Hollywood are like dust bunnies: unavoidable, but no one is especially glad to see them. And you can’t get much lower than a writer’s spouse. As we walked the red carpet at a pre-Oscars event, there was a manic flurry among the photographers behind the velvet rope, and a dozen cameras flashed. Someone shouted, “Hey, look this way!” I turned and smiled majestically. Then I noticed the cameras weren’t aimed at me, but at a collie trotting along proudly along in front of me. He was the star of a Lassie remake; his fur looked amazing.

I was waiting for a pedicure at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills when a young man approached. “Um, could you please move? We’re going to need that love seat for a shoot with Heidi Klum.” A nightmare scene eclipsed my vision. This sparkling salon full of beautiful people—all desperate for high-end pampering, not to mention fame and success—became bathed in a satanic light, as if we’d been transported into a Bruegel painting. We were bloodied, fanatical creatures, writhing against each another in a hideous struggle: You couldn’t ever stay on top in this rat race, there would always be someone prettier, luckier, more accomplished! When my eyesight returned to normal, I looked over at Heidi Klum and felt pity. Being that beautiful is hard, especially if your job depends upon it. It must take all the fun out of frivolous events like getting your nails polished or trying on fancy gowns. I went from feeling snubbed and ignored to being immensely grateful that no one cared how I looked.

A flyer in our hotel room advised us that, for security reasons, we couldn’t bring cameras or cell phones into the Kodak Theatre. Consequently, we don’t have any good photos from the Academy Awards. A producer friend who snuck his cell phone in got a fuzzy shot of us with Ken Davitian (the naked guy in Borat‘s bedroom fight scene).

© Courtesy Mary Granfield

Five years later, my daughter wore the Oscar gown to her senior prom. It fit her even better than it did me, and the color looked stunning with her blonde hair and pale skin. The best part was that, somehow, everyone in town knew about the dress. On prom day, I caught a woman staring at me at the post office. “Your daughter is Nina, right?” I nodded cautiously. She beamed, exclaiming, “She’s wearing the Oscar dress tonight!” The following year, my friend’s daughter, Matti, wore the gown to her prom, and Oscar buzz trailed her like perfume. While I may have chosen that gown for a visit to Hollywood, it didn’t really make a splash until I brought it home.

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