Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From the Oscar Trenches: Allison Jackson's First Time at the Oscars

One in a Series

In 1980, fresh out of college, I got my first job at Paramount Pictures working as assistant to Susan Pile, the head of publicity at the studio. We were having a big Oscar year, with multiple nominations for “Ordinary People, “The Elephant Man,” and “Ragtime.” 

We also had an Oscar-nominated documentary short called “The Dollar Bottom,” made by a Paramount film unit in London that was one of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s pet projects. I got to know the young French executive producer, because I was the only one in the department who talked to him on the phone. He was so excited about the nomination and ceremony, but tickets to the Oscars were not allocated to executive producers. We were having the same problem with one of the executive producers for “The Elephant Man.” 

A few days before the Oscar telecast the Academy’s wonderful Otto Spoerri – who had the impossible job of seating all of the nominees, stars, and VIPs – called to say that he had found some tickets in the balcony. My French filmmaker flew out to Los Angeles and, because he didn’t know anyone here, he invited me to go with him to the Oscar ceremonies. (Remember, I was just an assistant, a complete nobody).
Allison Jackson (right), Jasmine Madatian (left),
Sandy O'Neill at an Oscar party ca. 1990

When he came to our office at Paramount, he was more handsome than I ever could have imagined, and just as nice as he was one the phone. I was flat broke and sharing a barely furnished apartment with my sister, so I borrowed a dress to wear Oscar night. I felt just like Cinderella! 

We rode in a limo to the show with the film’s director and producer. We sat in the balcony next to Sissy Spacek’s mother and best friend. Sissy got the Best Actress Oscar for “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” “The Dollar Bottom“ won, too, for Best Documentary Short Subject. 

I don’t know what others did after the show – they were probably at swanky A-List parties – but we celebrated long into the evening at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, a now-forgotten Mexican bar and disco on Sunset Blvd. that was owned by Joan Rivers’ sister. It’s safe to say that we were the only Oscar winners there. 

The next day my Oscar date sent a dozen yellow roses to my office with a note: “It was a wonderful and memorable evening. Thank you for sharing it with me.” He was such a classy guy. All of the other assistants were envious. 

I loved every minute of it! 

Allison Jackson stayed at Paramount until 2006, rising to senior vice president of special events and philanthropy. Today she operates her own firm and is one of the top party and events planners in Hollywood.

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