NATIONAL POST (23-Mar-00)

LOS ANGELES – Deep in the palm-treed, whitewashed heart of Beverly Hills, Dr. Simon Ourian is busy managing the onslaught of patients who are here to take advantage of his pre-Oscar anti-wrinkle sale.

It’s ‘Christmastime’ for L.A. beauty-makers

By Cori Howard
National Post

LOS ANGELES – Deep in the palm-treed, whitewashed heart of Beverly Hills, Dr. Simon Ourian is busy managing the onslaught of patients who are here to take advantage of his pre-Oscar anti-wrinkle sale.

The sale, unusual even for Hollywood, is just part of the madness infecting this city in the run-up to Sunday’s Academy Awards. Hotels, restaurants and bars are full, and the shops along Melrose Place and Rodeo Drive are buzzing.

“This is like Christmastime, ” says Roy Teeluck, who is Meryl Streep’s hairstylist this year. “This is what people strive for. It’s their moment of glory.”

In Los Angeles this week, everyone remotely associated with the Academy Awards is struggling to find the perfect smile, the perfect body, the perfect outfit. And they are paying big bucks.

It was the sale that drew one young woman from San Diego. As she sits in a leather reclining chair, Dr. Ourian injects her forehead with a needle full of bacteria (taken from the botulism toxin) in about 15 spots.

“It feels like bee stings, ” she says. Little drops of blood form and are wiped away, only to reveal small lumps where the needle has gone in.

The woman says it’s worth the pain. “I do theater and I need to look young, ” she says. “So it’s important for my career.”

Dr. Ourian then injects her uncomfortably close to her eyes. She is about 36, she says, and there are no signs of any crow’s feet that need removing. But she insists they are there when she smiles.

As Dr. Ourian explains the possible side effects — bruises and headaches — a glance around the waiting room reveals no obvious pre-Oscar clients; only a guy in a track suit sleeping on the couch and several bored-looking blond women.

Dr. Ourian says his celebrity clientèle, whose names he will not reveal, only come on Mondays and Sundays, the two extra days he adds to his schedule just for pre-Oscar procedures.

You wouldn’t think stars would need to worry about the sale. You’d think a few hundred dollars wouldn’t make much of a difference to them, but Dr. Ourian says his office is packed at this time of year, and it’s not just with his regular clientèle.

“Everyone wants to look their best during the Oscars, ” he says. More than just Botox, Dr. Ourian also has a sale on for collagen injections, the kind used for older people with full-time wrinkles like laugh lines or those at the upper lip.

Doctors offices’ aside, the ultimate spot for pre-Oscar madness is really at the site of this year’s Academy Awards — the Shrine Auditorium. A white Masonic temple bordered by the freeway, an elementary school and a burger joint, the building is surrounded with scaffolding and 20-foot-tall gold Oscar statues.

The Los Angeles Police Department has kicked out all those who were camped in the school playground waiting for a coveted spot on the bleachers to watch the stars walk the red carpet. But there is an ever-changing cast of thousands moving through the set like worker ants, and every one of them — from the Mexican construction workers to the publicists — looks frantic and exhausted.

Everyone, that is, except Cheryl Cecchetto, co-ordinator for the Governor’s Ball, the official post-Oscars party held next door to the ceremony for a star-studded guest list of 1, 650. It’s no small task ensuring a top-notch party for Hollywood’s greatest stars, but Cecchetto, a Sudbury native, does not seem remotely stressed.

“I love my job, ” she says, walking under the white diaphanous archway that she has created on the ceiling of the ballroom. “I love to throw parties.”

Ms. Cecchetto, who is seven months pregnant and has a two-year-old at home, walks to one of the backrooms to take a lunch break.

While we talk, a rehearsal of Blame Canada, the nominated song from the movie South Park, is being performed on a monitor by a stand-in for the Oscar-night performer, Robin Williams. “Can you believe that?” she asks. “I hate that song.”

She’s a patriot, she insists, despite almost 20 years in the United States, 11 of which she has spent co-ordinating the Governor’s Ball. Four of her eight full-time employees are Canadian.

But by Oscar Sunday, her small crew will number 1, 200. She’s got a pyramid chart that illustrates her top-down approach to managing the food, decor, security, entertainment, lighting, sound, rentals, transportation and overall logistics of the event.

Behind her, pinned to the wall, are blueprints outlining her strategy. “It’s like 18 small restaurants, ” she says, pointing to the drawings of tables and stages. “It doesn’t really intimidate me.”

Nor does the presence of so many Hollywood stars.

“I’ve never been a stargazer, ” she says. “Plus, my mind always goes to what needs to be done. I can’t think, ‘Oh my god, there’s Billy Crystal.’ I’m thinking, ‘Are the party crashers being caught? Is the traffic flowing? Are the musicians cued up?’ The party is my celebrity”