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  • The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Living | Arts
    70th Annual Academy Awards
    Oscar joins the family

    Cambridge meets Tinseltown when Damon, Affleck kin and friends share in award winners' joy

    By Irene Sege, Globe Staff, 03/25/98

    OS ANGELES - When Matt Damon's father, Kent, saw that Jack Lemmon would be presenting the Oscar for best original screenplay Monday night, he leaned over to his son's agent and whispered that this was another good omen. Lemmon and the younger Damon both list the same Harvard social club in their personal histories.

    The omen was very good, indeed. Damon and his boyhood pal Ben Affleck went on to win an Academy Award for writing ''Good Will Hunting.'' While television cameras captured Damon and Affleck hugging their mothers, who were sitting beside them, Kent Damon, in row 14 of the Shrine Auditorium, jumped from his seat. Over in the third-row side seats, Damon's brother, Kyle, and sister-in-law, Lori, were jumping too, and yelling as loudly as they could. In Affleck's LA apartment, a group of long-time friends from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School embraced and wept and drank champagne.

    ''It was a big moment, a very big moment,'' said Damon's mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, after the ceremonies. ''What I felt was an overwhelming sense of joy for Matt and for Ben. My intellect says awards in any field is not an approach I really like, to pit people against each other. But given that that's the way it's done, to have Matt's name called was a completely thrilling moment.''

    ''There wasn't a dry eye in the place,'' said 29-year-old Marc McGovern, a social worker from Cambridge who watched the televised ceremonies at Affleck's apartment. ''I could barely stand up. My knees were so wobbly.''

    This was the highlight of the fabulous Hollywood adventure of FFOMAB - the family and friends of Matt and Ben - who flew here to share the Academy Awards with them.

    The script for the adventure came complete with dramatic foreshadowing. The movie showing on the Saturday and Sunday flights that Damon's family took to Los Angeles was ''Rainmaker,'' starring none other than Matt Damon.

    His father, a retired investment banker who lives in Back Bay, called it ''a symbol.'' Carlsson-Paige, a Lesley College professor of education who lives in Somerville, called it ''cosmic synchrony.''

    Whatever it was, by Sunday morning, while folks back in Boston were shoveling snow, Kent Damon was walking near his Beverly Hills hotel, wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans, talking about meeting Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise and Sally Field at a private party for Matt and Ben the night before, and saying, ''This is too much like a movie.''

    For Damon's family and Affleck's mother, Chris, it was a whirlwind weekend of limousines meeting them at the airport and being whisked from party to party to Oscar ceremony to party to party. (Affleck's father, who lives in California, and his brother, Casey, who was shooting a movie, were not in town for the event.)

    It was, for the women, dresses by Armani, Zang Toi, and Zoran, the latter, said Carlsson-Paige, provided by an ''angel from Henri Bendel,'' and somebody doing their hair and makeup and getting dressed at the Four Seasons Hotel in what Carlsson-Paige called a ''good girls' time.''

    It was 45 minutes just to walk down the famous red carpet into the Shrine Auditorium, to the cheers of movie fans who'd slept on bleachers to get a glimpse of the stars, under the disorienting glare of hundreds of flashing camera bulbs and TV lights, guided by a publicist whispering in their ears.

    ''It's like being in a condensed football stadium, and you're the player with the ball,'' said Carlsson-Paige, 54. ''Matt kept saying to me, `Mommy, are you OK?'''

    It was also, beneath the glamorous veneer, a chance to share a loved one's dream and see him in the community of his peers. And it was a chance for Damon's family to meet the young woman he's been dating, actress Winona Ryder.

    ''We get together as a family and we feel like we have our whole lives,'' said Kyle Damon, a 30-year-old sculptor and painter who lives in Somerville.

    ''Nothing has changed except the perception that something has changed,'' said Kent Damon, who is 55. ''That's what Hollywood is, smoke and mirrors.''

    Sitting in the bar of the Hotel Nikko in Beverly Hills Sunday afternoon, dressed in a dark blue Calvin Klein suit his brother gave him, waiting for the limo to that night's celebrity party, Kyle Damon noticed changes in himself.

    ''The weirdest thing is I'm starting to get used to it a little bit,'' he said. ''It's less strange when it's a novelty thing; it's weirder when it starts to feel comfortable.''

    The actual Academy Awards ceremony, Carlsson-Paige found, exuded ''a wonderful sense of community'' that ''felt much more authentic than what you see on TV.''

    ''It's very glitzy on the surface and it is about a lot of that, and for me that's hard to take,'' she said, ''but underneath it there is a caring community. It was wonderful to be there personally in that community.''

    After the ceremony, it was on to the Governors Ball at the Shrine and the Vanity Fair party at Morton's, where Carlsson-Paige made a point of wading through the crowd to tell Ellen DeGeneres how much she admires her.

    ''It was exciting to be in a room with so many people whose work you've seen over the years,'' Carlsson-Paige said.

    Last stop was Miramax studio's bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel. When Affleck, dressed in a tuxedo and clutching his Oscar, saw Cambridge buddy McGovern, the two gave each other a bear hug. Moments later Damon arrived, his father and brother and sister-in-law at his side and his mother back at the Vanity Fair party talking to DeGeneres.

    ''They're the same guys in better clothes,'' was how McGovern's wife, 27-year-old Pamela Thilo, put it.

    ''It's still surreal,'' said Kent Damon. ''My son has an Oscar, and he's always wanted to be an actor. He can't believe it. He said so himself in the quiet moments when we were stuck in traffic. But it's real.''

    By yesterday morning, it was time to go, not just because there were planes to catch but because, as Carlsson-Paige said, ''it's sobering to see this way of life and we're all glad to be going home.''

    So at 6 a.m. yesterday, their tuxedos and gown safely back in garment bags, Kent and Kyle and Lori Damon left the Hotel Nikko. Since they arrived at the Los Angeles Airport Saturday night, they'd been chauffered everywhere in stretch limousines. Now a Lincoln Town Car awaited them.

    Kent Damon laughed when he saw it. ''Back to the real world,'' he said.

    This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 03/25/98.
    © Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

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