First stop, the Golden Globes. Of all the many (many) stops on my tour last year, none lived up to the excitement of the season's kick-off.
While the manic energy of being in a room with 200 madly hobnobbing celebs and their 3,000 frantic handlers and cling-ons is hardly what you'd call cozy, it makes for a night to remember.
And so, tux affixed, notebook secured, I go once more into the breach.
Baby, it's cold outside
A vicious morning chill still hangs in the air as Redcarpetland undergoes its final construction phases at 11 a.m. Although RCL will begin receiving its first celebrities in a mere three hours and huge pieces seem missing still, the army of workers scuttle about in focused but unpanicked fashion.
Wrapping around the circular Beverly Hilton driveway, Redcarpetland is lined by the row set up for the print and second-tier TV press on one side and the monumental gazebos being constructed for the giants of the industry "Acces Hollywood," "The Insider," "Extra" on the other.
As early reports begin to be filed, shivering women in strapless gowns plant themselves along the road. The titans arrive in phalanx with entourage for sound checks Pat O'Brien in tux and sunglasses idles patiently by his gazebo, Ryan Seacrest in puffy parka and sunglasses leads a boisterous group into position.
Get breaking news alerts delivered to your mobile phone. Text BREAKING to 52669. You will receive up to 30 msgs/mo. Msg&data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.
I chat with Megan Haggerty and Kathy Moster of Chicago as they are being ushered to their seats in the seven rows of bleachers set up for screaming fans. The pair scored their tickets by calling a Hollywood Foreign Press Association hotline number the day after last year's show.
They paid $2,000 for the pair of seats in the last row of bleachers, plus two nights at the Beverly Hilton and a L'Oreal gift basket. Moster is most excited to see Johnny Depp; Haggerty for the "Grey's Anatomy" cast. They report that they've already seen lots of stars wandering around the hotel, and watched MTV's Vanessa Manilo tape a report. Moster says most of the stars they've seen have been very nice and welcoming.
The carpet comes alive
Returning three hours later, Redcarpetland is a manic beehive of activity. Publicists scurry madly about, neck-craning fans squeeze to the edge of the security cordon in the hotel lobby, lights shine bright from the TV gazebos. Along the opposite wall, reporters and camera crews lean, waiting for the parade.
As is typical for the early stages, the red carpet is filled with mostly C-list stars cruising at dangerously slow speeds past the press, all too obviously crying out to be interviewed.
Tim Gunn from "Project Runway," working here as a reporter for "The Today Show," puzzles over these alleged starlets he fails to recognize. "They are all cast to types," he opines, "not as individuals so they are completely interchangeable"
A collective sigh of relief warms the frigid air as the first genuines -- the cast of "Heroes" -- hits the shag. Cheerleader Hayden Panettiere nears Gunn's station in a Grecian goddesses get-up. "She's gorgeous. Perfect," Gunn remarks.
Her co-star, Ali Larter, holds a conversation nearby, revealing that she started working out with her trainer at 7 a.m., but that he, "keeps it really positive."
Also interesting, a team of French motorcycle police line the aisles in full dress regalia. They seem to be serving as the security force here, or at least the decorative security detail, while the guys with the earpieces and sleeve mikes do the grunt work.
As the the planet's greatest concentration of beauty and glamour slowly breaks off the carpet and makes its way into the ballroom, a swarthy, overweight, middle-aged man stops traffic dead. As Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight on "The Office" passes the man, he freezes and gasps, "Oh my God, it's the guy from Borat."