Sunday, March 01, 2009


For the second year in a row, my day job took me to the Academy Awards telecast last Sunday. For most people, the thrill is what goes on along the vast red carpet and then inside the Kodak Theater. For me, unsurprisingly, the thrill is everything going on OUTSIDE the theater and the glitz-zone.

In terms of security, short of a presidential visit, the Oscars are in a class by themselves. I can think of few other annual events that require a 10 block-plus security cordon, vehicle bomb detection and a serpentine driving course consisting of blast protection barriers....all BEFORE you drop your car off for mandatory valet parking!

Prior to entering the first layer of security at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue, I cruised past FS 27 and noticed Light Force 15 (USC's finest) parked in the driveway and two big LAPD Command vehicles. Once past the uniformed officer at Sunset X Wilcox, we encountered uniformed LAPD and LADOT officers at every intersection until turning westbound onto Hollywood Boulevard. At that point, the street was closed in both directions, save for traffic headed to the actual awards show. We pulled up about four blocks short, where an LAPD sergeant said our vehicle would be inspected visually before we were allowed to proceed.

The bomb inspection was quick and painless--especially because I had no bomb--and then we followed the line of cars in the serpentine course (think TSA security line with metal barriers in place of the elastic rope lines) and up and over a retractable stop plate until we pulled up at the valet line at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. There, hundreds of fans crowded the barricades on the east side of the intersection as the west side was the designated limo drop-off point and the beginning of the red carpet hoopla. At least two dozen officers were milling around the intersection with two or three K-9 units wandering the scene and about a dozen motor officers doing pedestrian control.

Once we crossed the street and entered the "civilian" side of the red-carpet we went through the standard metal detector shenanigans (though allowed to bring in cell phones and other PDA devices) and started the slow shuffle down the red carpet. Overhead, half a dozen news choppers circled, the occasional Cessna flew by and the LAPD had two birds on station the entire time--one doing a low orbit, the second up a bit higher.

Six hours later, as I drove out of the theater complex and made the forced left onto Highland, most of the hardcore security had departed. I did notice, however, LAFD's sick Command 3 truck heading back downtown being trailed by RA4. Anyway, thankfully, none of that hardware was needed for anything real this year and the taxpayers will get their bills in the mail.

photo: David Strick, from an Oscars back in the day when they were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown.

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