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Harry Smith On Covering The Oscars

(CBS)
Tomorrow, "Early Show" anchor Harry Smith is heading to Los Angeles to cover the Oscars. For reporters, covering the ceremony can be a grueling experience. I talked to Smith about what he expects.

The "Early Show," he says, will have a hotel room set up in case the stars want to do a sit down interview, as well as a spot on the red carpet from which Smith can call out to the boldface names in hopes they come over to chat. "It's so glamorous," he says, laughing. The experience, he says, can be nerve-wracking, because if the stars don't show up at the Governor's Ball or fail to come over to chat, "it can be a pathetic waste of time." ("Early Show" producers have been working the phones to try and "massage relationships" and set up interviews in advance.) Tomorrow, when he arrives in Los Angeles, Smith plans to attend an afternoon picnic with many of the stars – though he won't be covering it. "It's a chance to schmooze," he says. "It's one more way to say, 'don't forget me when you get your Oscar tomorrow.'"

But in a "crazily competitive" environment like the Oscars, getting interviews is always a challenge. Last year, the "Early Show" scored a long, sit down interview with Jamie Foxx, but when Lord Of The Rings won in 2004, the show was unable to get face time with the winners. So Smith had to improvise. "I snuck in past the security, into the Governor's Ball, which isn't a good idea, by the way," he says. "I found Peter Jackson, who I'd met before, and he remembered me, and I said, 'If I can just get 4 minutes, that would be great.' He's sitting at the table with all of his friends, all these Oscars at the table, and they're calling people in New Zealand and having a great time. So I just said, you know, 'I'll wait.'" I stood near his table for maybe an hour. Finally, when he got up to leave, I went over to him and was able to bring him over to our camera, and we got the interview."

Once the awards are given out, it can become much harder to score a particular interview. "They really do campaign for these Oscars, and when they're campaigning it's pretty easy to get them," says Smith. "But when the campaign is over it's a whole different story – winner or loser."

As for the Oscar night parties, Smith says he doesn't try to attend as a guest. "By the time we're done at Governor's Ball, it's time to wash your face and pretend to close your eyes for an hour," he says. "And then we go in and cut the pieces. We're on the air at 4 A.M. local time."