By Susan Shinn
The 80th annual Academy Awards are now part of movie history ó and Salisbury’s Craig Kolkebeck was there. Kolkebeck, who works as a set carpenter for Piedmont Players Theatre and is an actor and director, was part of the crew running fiber optic cables for Hollywood’s biggest night.
Kolkebeck lived in Los Angeles for 15 years. Through his work in the Waterworld stunt show at Universal Studios, he met friends who did utility work for TV reality shows.
He became a member of those crews. The “Hell’s Kitchen” show used 62 robotic cameras. He also worked on The Osbornes show, “The Contender” with Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard and “The Newlyweds.”
“Then a show called ‘Desperate Housewives’ came along and wiped out the reality show business,” Kolkebeck says.
He and wife Judi, an artist, decided it was a good time to leave L.A.
Kolkebeck’s parents, Ken and Nonnie, had moved to Salisbury, where his brother Bruce also lives.
“Bruce came to Catawba and married a Southern girl, and he never came home,” says Kolkebeck, who grew up in upstate New York. “Everybody’s come to him.”
He continues, “I was never a real big fan of L.A., but I got some good things from it. I got some work, and I got my wife.”
This was his third Oscars.
He worked the show in 2004 and 2005. He couldn’t go last year because he was appearing in “Holes” at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.
Kolkebeck worked on a crew of four that was responsible for running fiber optic cable. Those cables included video, audio and data lines.
Kolkebeck says that an “unbelievable amount of people” are involved in putting on the Oscars.
“And everybody’s behind schedule, so it’s a stressful environment,” he says.
The building behind the Kodak Theatre is called “main show,” and that’s where all the lines originate.
Where all the cables converge, he says, looks like “a big ol’ mound of spaghetti.”
Kolkebeck works for Bexel, the company that was also responsible for running cable to all the satellite trucks parked nearby, as well as to working media at the Renaissance Hotel across the street.
Kolkebeck’s crew arrived Feb. 16. They finished up their work Feb. 27. He worked a total of 127 hours over those 11 days. The day of the show, he worked 17 hours.
On Oscar day, all of the crew donned tuxedos, and Kolkebeck was able to stand next to the red carpet at the theater’s entrance to watch the stars arrive.
For the red carpet alone, the crew had run 23 separate cables, each 900 feet in length.
The actor Kolkebeck was most interested in seeing was best actor nominee Viggo Mortensen, a classmate at St. Lawrence University.
Kolkebeck called out to the actor, then said, “St. Lawrence University, class of ’79.” Mortensen reached out to shake his hand.
“That was pretty cool,” Kolkebeck says.
He calls the red carpet “kind of a weird scene. It’s a bit surrealistic.”
He says the only time he’s ever been starstruck was when he met Clint Eastwood at the premiere of “Unforgiven.”
Highlights last Sunday night for Kolkebeck were seeing Mickey Rooney, Julie Christie and Tommy Lee Jones.
Kolkebeck says that Jones seemed to be having trouble with his knees ó at 51, he could relate to that.
He thought Seal was “incredibly handsome,” although he was not familiar with the singer’s wife, model Heidi Klum.
He admits that seeing the young starlets didn’t mean an awful lot to him.
He also says that ó like many people around Salisbury who spotted George Clooney when he was here for “Leatherheads” filming ó he expected the actor to be taller.
Kolkebeck didn’t get to people watch all night.
“As soon as the show starts, we’re pulling cable on the red carpet,” he says. “We’re striking in tuxedos, which is no fun. They don’t want anybody caught on camera looking like what I’m looking like now.”
On this day, Kolkebeck is wearing overalls and a black long-sleeved shirt on his way to the Meroney Theater.
He did have a bit of down time in L.A., and got to catch up with friends and family, including his wife’s brother.
“Getting to see them was a big deal,” he says.
He brought Judi a jar of her favorite Best Foods mayonnaise, which she swears is better than Hellman’s.
Despite rubbing elbows with the stars, Kolkebeck admits, “I’m glad to be home.”
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or email@example.com.
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