By Christine Schwab
WeNews guest author
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Christine Schwab offers a memoir of secretly coping with rheumatoid arthritis while working as a style and fashion TV reporter. In this excerpt from "Take Me Home From the Oscars," she recounts how the nightmare began on her big night at the Academy Awards.
(WOMENSENEWS)--March 27, 1995
"Welcome to the 67th Annual Academy Awards," the handsome young valet attendant said as he opened the door of our black town car. As he reached in to help me out, I quickly slipped out of my sneakers and into heels. I stepped onto the red carpet, reached for my husband's hand and took my first deep breath of the fresh spring air that was alive with anticipation of the evening to come.
Thousands of anxious, screaming fans overflowed from the temporary bleachers lining the boulevard. The thunder of their cheers made the wooden structures sway. Hundreds of paparazzi crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, yelling celebrity names in hopes of getting that one perfect shot.
Producers dressed in their black-on-black event outfits pushed through the crowds, talking on their headsets, confirming which stars had arrived and were ready for live television interviews. Publicists, their worker-bee status obvious from their non-jeweled business attire, scurried behind their celebrities, making sure every hair was in place, each piece of lint removed, before the red-carpet cameras rolled.
The imposing Shrine Auditorium stood at the top of the staircase, waiting for the arrival of the biggest names in entertainment. I wore my new black taffeta Ralph Lauren dress and sheer coat with fabulous chandelier earrings that dusted my shoulders as I walked.
Judging from the stares of the crowd, on the outside I looked Oscar worthy. On the inside, the pain pills that I had just managed to swallow as the limo pulled up to the Shrine were attempting to mask my secret inner battle. I had only one goal: Make it through the evening.
It doesn't get much better than the Academy Awards for those of us who work in entertainment, as both my husband and I did. Hollywood boasts dozens of awards shows, but being invited to the Academy Awards is considered the pinnacle of success. My husband Shelly was president of television distribution at Universal Studios. I was a television style reporter, working on "Entertainment Tonight," "Oprah," "NBC Nightly News" and "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee."
We had met eight years earlier at the Hollywood Television Executives luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and married three years later, to the day. Life was paradise. Little did we know that over the next seven years a chronic disease would invade my body and try to take it all away from us.
We were truly a power couple. Our social life involved premieres, screenings, political functions, charity events and glamorous parties. Our business life involved power brokers and celebrities; Shelly worked in back of the camera, I was in front. Given my family roots, it was the least likely place for me to end up.
On this warm March afternoon we walked up the red carpet at the Oscars with hundreds of A-listers. Waiting for the auditorium doors to open, Shelly chatted with Lucy Salhany, president of television at Fox, and David Geffen, who had recently launched DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Geffen defied the traditional tuxedo with his trademark black T-shirt and suit. I remembered thinking he looked like a young man who had crashed the party.
Because of the throbbing pain running uncontrollably through my body, I couldn't concentrate on anything they were saying, but that was fine because spouses are almost invisible when executives are together. They didn't notice me shift from foot to foot, trying to find some relief from the pressure of standing on my swollen feet, which by now were bulging out of my designer shoes.
By Sharon Johnson
By Molly M. Ginty