For Jessica Derhammer, tonight's Academy Awards ceremony is another step in a young career mingling with the rich and famous.
When movie stars set foot on the red carpet today, a Southern Oregon native will be there to meet them.
Jessica Derhammer, a graduate of Eagle Point High School, will pair publicists with nominees at the 80th Academy Awards before dashing backstage to escort Oscar winners to the press area. Her nearly 24-hour shift will end at tonight's Governors Ball, where she'll again assist publicists.
"Every actor, every celebrity will go by me," Derhammer says. "It's going to be a media-crazy situation."
Beyond hobnobbing with Hollywood's elite, the frenzied pace of an assistant to the host committee coordinator is right in Derhammer's comfort zone.
"I love chaos," says the 24-year-old former Trail resident.
Landing a full-time job as a "floater" with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is just Derhammer's latest stop on the express route away from her rural beginnings. A local high-school track and field standout, Derhammer has maintained a sprinter's pace since earning a media relations degree from Southern California's Biola University in 2005.
"I'm obsessed with mass media," she says.
Her first job out of college as a "runner" for Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels required plenty of hustle, delivering game notes throughout Angels Stadium and helping to facilitate press conferences during the 2005 and 2007 post-seasons. Keeping up with two little girls came next as Derhammer filled the role of nanny and personal assistant for the family of outfielder Shawn Green — a former member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played last season for the New York Mets.
Working as a full-time caregiver should have prepared Derhammer for working 16- to 20-hour days directing a model and talent agency's Los Angeles office last year. But the long hours with little time for healthful eating habits took their toll, and Derhammer collapsed from a kidney infection. Feeling as though she had reached a crossroads, Derhammer returned home to Trail and summer work waiting tables at Miguel's Guadalajara in Shady Cove.
"I just needed to rehab," Derhammer says. "I was becoming this person that I did not ever want to be."
Yet she yearned for Southern California and returned in September, fielding a call from the Academy on the way. Friendships established during Derhammer's days at the talent agency funneled her resume through the right channels. Dispensing with an interview, the Academy's operations manager, Kim Tamny, simply asked Derhammer when she could start work.
"She was willing to take on anything," Tamny says. "I knew Jessica would be perfect for the job."
An all-around gofer without specific duties, Derhammer says she never knows what a day at the office will bring. Prior to this month's nominees luncheon, Derhammer proofread names on more than 150 nomination certificates, convincing colleagues that she could man the event's check-in desk.
"I wasn't expecting it to be such a mingle-fest," Derhammer says. "There's no press. They are all so happy to be there."
George Clooney, Derhammer says, showed the most enthusiasm, shaking hands with all the Academy employees and thanking them.
"No, it's like, 'Thank you for being in 'Ocean's Eleven,' 'Twelve' and 'Thirteen,'" she jokes.
The brief brush with Clooney, because of his near-universal fame, is among the few celebrity encounters that Derhammer's family can appreciate.
"They don't even know," Derhammer says. "They're like, 'Who's that?' But they're so happy for me."
Jon and Becky Derhammer struggle to understand their daughter's preference for Southern California, given their move from Orange County to Shady Cove in 1981. Disillusioned with rapid growth in their hometown, the Derhammers immediately put their house up for sale following a vacation to the Rogue Valley. Ten years later, they moved further into the hills around Trail.
"We've turned into country people ... and we like it that way," says 50-year-old Becky Derhammer, adding that she and husband, Jon, 53, haven't seen any of this year's Oscar-nominated films.
The couple had to turn down tickets to this year's event, a perk offered to full-time employees, but they hope to attend the 2009 awards ceremony.
"Maybe next year, since we know we're going to the awards, we'll go to the movies more," Becky Derhammer says.
For this year at least, the Derhammers will content themselves with watching the Oscars television broadcast — for the first time in its entirety — hoping to glimpse their daughter in her full-length, silver gown. While the Academy ensures Jessica Derhammer will be fresh from an appointment in its hair and makeup department, she'll have been on the job for about 10 hours when limousines start arriving.
Stars may be all smiles on the red carpet, but they likely will sport more genuine expressions when Derhammer sees them next: the backstage "winners' walk" to meet the press.
"That's when you get to see their true emotions because there's no cameras, there's no anything," Derhammer says.
"I'm just excited to see how it all turns out."
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.