TWO VIEWS FROM THE TRENCHES
WHILE AWARDS SHOW VETERAN PAMELA DENNIS WORKS HER RED CARPET LOOKS LIKE A PRO…
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
The countdown is on. It’s 48 hours before the Big Event, and designer Pamela Dennis is fretting over heels, handbags, even pantyhose.
True, her evening dresses are why Bette Midler, Patricia Heaton and Lorraine Bracco sought Dennis out for their Globe gowns this year.
But it’s the delivery of the details and the advice — including whether one star should do her ‘do curly or straight — that sets Dennis apart from many of her awards show peers.
The panicked phone calls started coming in well before the coffee arrived Friday morning, and never stopped through the weekend.
By mid-afternoon Friday, Dennis was waiting at the Warner Bros. gates in Burbank for a fitting with “The West Wing’s” Allison Janney. Dennis’s sister-in-law and publicist Paula Dennis, with cell phone glued to her ear, was dashing to a Beverly Hills tailor. And the designer’s husband, Andrew Rothstein, was at Saks Fifth Avenue picking up hosiery before heading off to Neiman Marcus for satin Manolos like those belonging to Paula, which one star couldn’t convince the publicist to relinquish.
“Can you imagine wearing someone else’s shoes?” asked Paula, before dashing off to her next stop.
The entire crew soon had to be back at their L’Ermitage Hotel base camp, refreshed and ready for one of the weekend’s main fetes on the rooftop. A veteran of five years’ worth of awards shows, Dennis introduced some of the Hollywood community to party co-host Charles Worthington, a British hair stylist eager to join the celebrity circus.
“The Golden Globes are an out-of-body experience.” Dennis had beamed a week earlier in New York over a stiff cup of coffee. “All the awards [shows] are.”
And they’re a learning experience to boot, she added. “I’ve learned what to do — like monitoring the clothes, so they’re not held hostage by stylists, celebrities or publicists. It’s very difficult. You send out six pieces hoping some will get air time, and they don’t.” But the Globes, she said, “are a little more low-pressure, a little more at ease.”
The “low-pressure” week started six days before Sunday’s event, when Dennis and her team arrived from New York. Her sleek evening looks have contributed to the evolution in red carpet style, which is taking the once-blinding sequined spectacles toward a lower-key modernism.
First in line Tuesday was Midler, in for her second fitting. The nude-colored webbed gown the Divine Miss M wore to the Democratic Convention “got a standing ovation,” noted Dennis. “She came in and said ‘I have to top it.”‘
“Bette has this amazing body,” said Dennis. Every sample size 4 she put on fit.”
What Dennis loves best about the stars she has dressed over the years — Calista Flockhart, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shiva Rose McDermott and Kate Winslet — is “that they’re women, they have their own presence. They can walk in heels and wear a dress.”
As a designer, the perennially blonde, bronzed Dennis also brings a singular M.O., one that’s usually expected of handlers, not designers. Not only does she concern herself with her clients’ entire look, but she returns to Los Angeles for every show — even with collections around the corner — to personally zip them into their custom dresses.
“Yeah, I do feel like a mom. It’s my duty. Last time, I was with Liv Tyler at the Chateau Marmont, and she had this pocketbook that I had gotten her at Barneys and I’m asking if she’s got tissues in it. What if she cried?” said Dennis.
“I’m pretty tough on myself, ” she continued. “I’m [in Los Angeles] to be with [my clients] and by the big day I’m tired. They want me to come to all the parties, but I hate the feeling that I’m hanging around. I’m not nominated. I’m a behind-the-scenes person. I really feel uncomfortable. It’s my job to get them there. But it’s not my party.”
Dennis is an avowed film junkie, which is why she said was thrilled to dress Joan Allen’s character in “The Contender.” She would love to pursue film costuming, noting that being a designer is not just about the runway or the red carpet.
But seeing her own wares on the silver screen or the TV screen can still contribute to her version of an “out-of-body” experience.
“Sometimes I’ll be watching and I’ll say, ‘Did I make that?’ I remember Lauren Holly wore a dress of mine and it was on backwards. It looked better, actually, sexier — but it was backwards.”
While that bungle escaped the barbs of the fashion faux pas brigade, the jaw-droppingly transparent sheath Geena Davis wore to the last year’s Emmys did not.
“It wasn’t a planned thing. The [pattern] was supposed to camoflauge, but the lighting exposed everything. If Geena didn’t have such an amazing body, I would’ve cried more. But you know, people remember the ‘Geena dress.’ And it was the same year as Jennifer’s [Lopez, wearing Versace], so+”
Still, Dennis can’t resist offering her own armchair commentary on the sartorial hype surrounding the awards shows. “The whole obsession with what people are wearing is getting to be too much. But the public is drawn to it. I am. It’s human nature. I’d love to know how hard the phone companies are working during the show.”