Stars attending the 74th Annual Academy Awards this Sunday will no doubt look as ravishing as ever, dressed in an array of one-of-a-kind couture gowns -- accessorized with some of the world's most expensive diamonds.
It also takes time and money to appear relaxed, glamorous, and sweat-free at what Hollywood fashion king Bob Mackie calls "the most terrifying, neurosis-making event of the year," where stars' dress and demeanor are often more talked about by Oscar's millions of TV viewers than the awards themselves.
To cope with this reality without having heart palpitations, many stars may arrive on the Red Carpet armed with an array of prescription drugs in pockets and evening bags to ease nerves, celebrity physicians told Reuters.
"For some reason the Oscars seems to bring out greatest anxiety in people. They know they're going to be in the limelight and the fact that so many people will be watching them makes them more nervous," said Dr. Anne Ryback Schmidt, a Santa Monica, Calif., internist who writes prescriptions to help her celebrity patients get through the Oscars clad in confidence.
The drugs Inderal or Atenolol, Ryback Schmidt said, "slow down your heart so when you're up there on stage you don't get palpitations and get sweaty." Other anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, and Ativan, she said, "help people who stutter or get a panic attack. They will take one pill or half a pill before walking down the Red Carpet so their legs don't get shaky."
The stars may also come dosed with other substances meant to make their faces and bodies picture perfect.
For instance, many seek pre-Oscar treatments of botox -- or chicken botulinum toxin -- which when injected into facial muscles renders them immobile, imparting a more wrinkle-free appearance. Botox can also be injected into the armpits or palms of the hands, paralyzing sweat glands and preventing perspiration for up to six months.
"It's not cheap -- it costs $1,000 per treatment -- but when you're wearing a $10,000 or $20,000 gown it's certainly worth it to stay dry, plus it saves on the cost of deodorant and dry cleaning," said Dr. Jessica Wu, a dermatologist who treats celebrities.
As to what the stars will wear to the Oscars, it's anybody's guess. The Academy Awards, which began 74 years ago as a small year-end film fete has become a major fashion showcase.
In the past few weeks representatives for couture creators like Versace, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Prada, Pamela Denis, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, and Emanuel Ungaro flew into town along with jewelers, seamstresses and hairdressers to aggressively court the stars. Some promise gratis outfits costing $100,000 or more, including microscopic $80,000 gowns, $500 haircuts, $500,000 diamond bracelets and necklaces and custom-made jewel-studded shoes.
Stars are loath to reveal what they plan to wear on the Red Carpet and 2002 seems more than ever the year that everybody wants to set themselves apart with a unique outfit -- possibly to counter an awards show trend that tones down the customary glitzy, flesh-baring garb out of respect for those grieving — after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
In fact stars who attended the Emmys, which finally aired in November after twice being cancelled due to post Sept. 11 malaise, were asked to attend in business suits -- and the Red Carpet fizzled before viewers' eyes.
In recent weeks Oscars producer Laura Ziskin has openly encouraged attendees and presenters to dress up but it's also expected that fewer high-exposure sheaths will be on parade.
"This is the first and prime opportunity since Sept. 11 for Hollywood to really step out and dress things up to what is normally expected of Hollywood, said Tom Julian, fashion analyst for oscar.com, who is predicting a very glamorous Red Carpet.
"I don't think we're going to see as much beading and not a lot of (overtly sexual) styles," said Women's Wear Daily Entertainment Editor Merle Ginsberg. "I think people feel that's inappropriate. We won't see a lot of tight. Other than that it's good old glamour. I think people feel it's their patriotic duty to get dressed up for the Oscars," Ginsberg said.
Within the new toned down parameters, celebrities are scrambling to differentiate themselves to the point where no two stars will even go near the same designer. "Everybody is looking to be unique ...," Ginsburg said. "Chanel for instance is only dressing one person on the Red Carpet and it's an exclusive. That actress asked that Chanel dress only her."
There will also be more vintage on the Red Carpet this year, a trend that took off after Julia Roberts, who won a best actress Oscar last year for "Erin Brockovich," showed up in a vintage Valentino. This year the designers have not only brought out new creations, they are hawking their archived collections which date back 20 years or more, Ginsberg said.
Peasant and ethnic looks might also be popular this year, Ginsberg said, as well as more highly tailored gowns.
Jewelry and other accessories will also likely have a more vintage look, stylists said, and some stars might show up wearing family heirlooms.
The reward for wearing celebrity makeup artist Valerie Sarnelle's newest Oscar accessory simply lies in the wearing: thick and furry mink- and squirrel-fur false eyelashes -- in variegated blacks, browns and blondes. Last year Jennifer Lopez began the trend by gluing red fox fur to her sultry lids.
"They look like butterflies but they're not overdone," said Sarnelle, who also owns Valerie Beverly Hills salon. This is the ultimate accessory. If you don't have the money to buy a big expensive dress, you can go in a little black dress, your $35 fur lashes and great makeup and you don't need anything else."