True Stories

We Went to the Oscars on Our First Date

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My cousin Carrie and her husband Mike have been married for eight years. They met in February 2000, when they were living in the same apartment complex in Los Angeles. Carrie rang Mike’s doorbell to ask for help moving a sleeper sofa out of a rental truck in the rain. She offered him $5 for his trouble, which he declined, though he and his roommate both pitched in.

Mike worked at the Academy Film Archive, and — as he puts it — “they let us schlubs go to the Awards in lieu of paying us a living wage.” Though they’d only known each other for a few weeks, he decided to invite Carrie, a PA for Party of Five at the time, as his plus-one.

When Mike asked her, Carrie initially drew a blank. “Is the Oscars the one with the movies?” she asked.

“I felt weird, but also found that kind of attractive,” he said. It would be their first date. Mike, 27, wore a $99 tux and Carrie, 23, picked up a $200 black dress from Macy’s.

In the limo with Mike’s coworkers, they tried to convince fans outside the theater that Carrie was actually Catherine Keener, her celebrity doppelgänger, with varying degrees of success. They even walked the red carpet, sort of. “They have a divider separating civilians from the chosen people,” Carrie explained.

Oscars first date

Velvet rope or not, they found themselves standing awfully close to almost every A-lister you can imagine. At one point, Jude Law accidentally bumped into Carrie.

Mike spotted Pedro Almodóvar not too far ahead of them, but the director got sidetracked when he ran into someone he knew. (“However flamboyant and talkative you imagine Almodóvar to be when he sees an old friend at the Oscars multiply it by 1000 and you’re still not close,” he says.) For Carrie, basking in Brad Pitt’s otherworldly presence was a thrill. Ultimately, they decided to follow Meryl Streep, who was attending the ceremony stag that year. As a general rule, you can never go wrong following Meryl.

Oscars first date

Inside, they were seated in the nosebleed section (again, schlubs), but that was hardly the point. It was Billy Crystal’s seventh time hosting, and The Matrix took home four awards. Mike got to see his friend, the late cinematographer Conrad Hall, win an Oscar for his work on American Beauty.

Today, neither Mike nor Carrie makes a point of watching the ceremony on television, especially now that they have two criminally adorable small children. In hindsight, Carrie suspects they would’ve enjoyed attending the Oscars even more if they’d already been together for a while beforehand.

“But truthfully, it was a pretty killer first date,” she said. “There’s really not a better ticket in town. This town, at least.”