She was Richard Dreyfuss’ date for the Oscars, but only for 15 minutes. She’s Anne Butterfly, who was a seat-filler during last Monday’s Academy Awards. To create the impression that everyone there is glued to their seats, all vacant chairs are filled immediately by people in tuxes or evening gowns who look like they belong, but don’t.
They sit for anyone who doesn’t show up, presents an Oscar, makes a speech or goes to the bathroom.
“I sat more than I had hoped to sit,” Butterfly said. “I wanted to spend more time in the tunnel where you line up to sit, because the stars would stop on their way back from the bathroom to talk to us.
“The stars always tell you what a nice job you’re doing. I have no idea why. I thought they would look down on us, but they didn’t.”
The 167 seat-fillers line up on either side of the auditorium and rush down the aisles whenever a seat captain spots an empty chair. If they don’t get to the seat before the show resumes, they have to crouch in the aisle until TV goes to another commercial.
“You have to be quick on your feet,” the Phoenix resident said. “When someone comes back to their seat, you have to get out as quickly as you got in.”
The seat-fillers arrive early and then wait as the stars parade into the auditorium.
“We were the first people in evening gowns to walk down the red carpet,” Butterfly said. “The fans cheered for us. They must have thought we were somebody.”
During the show, Butterfly sat for Eric Roth when he went to the stage to get his Oscar for writing “Forrest Gump,” then for Tim Rice when he accepted an Oscar for Best Song.
She was about to fill a seat next to Jamie Lee Curtis, but the star requested a male filler because she was unescorted and didn’t want to sit next to a woman.
The seat-fillers aren’t paid for their services, but they do get a lunch, a program, a poster and a hat with an Oscar engraved on it. They are not allowed to bring cameras, ask for autographs, use the bar or crash the big party afterward.
Butterfly picked off the floor a ticket stub indicating that those seats cost $250 each for non-fillers.
Most fillers are L.A. regulars, but some were from Texas, Utah and Missouri. Two were from England.
“A mother and daughter came from Detroit,” Butterfly said. “The daughter was stunning. I think she came there hoping to be discovered.”
Would Butterfly do it again?
“In a heartbeat,” she said.
Being a veteran seat-filler will help her get the job next time and give her access to filling seats at the Grammys and Emmys. The main qualifications are to look like you fit in and own your own fancy clothes.
If you’d like to apply to fill seats at next year’s Oscars, write a letter about yourself and include a photo. Send them in January to Joseph DiSante, ABC, 4151 Prospect Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027.