THE BIG SHOW by Steve Pond


High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards
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A decade-and-a-half of gossip from the world’s most overblown awards show.

Originally assigned to the Oscars in the late 1980s by Premiere magazine, Pond realized he was going to have more on his hands than a onetime story. With the access he was able to secure, there was just too much in the way of gigantic egos, unbelievable amounts of tension and celebrity-gawking to fit inside even a lengthy feature article—and so now we have The Big Show, a dessert tray of goodies for Oscar junkies. Pond starts off in 1989, if only because the show produced by the Coppolaesque Allen Carr crashing and burning on live television was just too tasty a morsel to pass up. After that, Pond breezes through a quick background of the awards, in a way that sets up a template for the rest of what follows: we’re not going to hear much about the titanic struggle between mainstream and independent cinema, Pulp Fiction vs. Forrest Gump. Pond is more interested in the hot-tempered machinations of the show itself. While this does mean that little of the story is in any way important, it also divorces Pond’s narrative from the usual notions of inflated importance that comes with tales about the Oscars, an essentially meaningless gimmick that over the decades has somehow accrued the patina of near-royalty. Pond’s fly-on-the-wall style keeps things humming, even as we’re treated to lengthy exposition about one producer’s preference for a particular kind of dance routine or to the reasons why it is that rehearsals for a host went so poorly (David Letterman) or so well (Steve Martin). It’s an effective technique, since the writer seems to be everywhere, eavesdropping on conversations between A-list actors and nobodies, hearing which singer can’t get served at the bar or which actress is being told that her nipples are showing.

Insider without smarmy, and fun without pointless: a fascinating peek behind that big, ugly, coveted statue.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-571-21193-3
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2004