By People Staff
April 10, 2000 12:00 PM

You’ve won. Now what? Leave it to the women who hand out the trophies to make sure you head to the pressroom instead of back down the stairs in a daze. Winners and presenters are nervous,” says Jeff Margolis, who directed the broadcast from 1989 to 1996. “They need someone with a gentle grip but a commanding mannerism to guide them.” Some former Oscar girls—including Linda Evans, Victoria Principal and Pam Grier—have achieved fame of their own. So dozens of models and actresses compete for the job. The criteria for getting chosen? “Style, poise and a beautiful smile,” says Margolis. Plus a strong constitution. Adds Margolis: “They’re really sort of policemen up there.”

Pam Grier

He had on no clothes; she had the wrong ones. When erotic art gallery owner Robert Opel infamously streaked behind host David Niven in 1974, “I saw his little white butt as he ran across the stage and thought, ‘Oh, my God!’ ” recalls Pam Grier, who shared Oscar duties that night with Victoria Principal. But even the streaker proved an inadequate distraction from what she calls “a ‘bad dress, bad makeup, bad hair, bad attitude night.’ I had had a beautiful dress made, but it wasn’t ready in time, so I wore one that didn’t fit right,” says Grier, who went on to star in 1974’s Foxy Brown, 1977’s Greased Lightning and 1997’s Jackie Brown. “I thought I was going to be Cinderella and instead I was the pumpkin.” Attendee Warren Beatty emerged as her Prince Charming. “He was very personable and kind,” says Grier, now 50. “He complimented my dress and made me feel better. He seemed interested in what I had to say. You don’t forget someone like that.”

Reneé Gentry

After stints as a trophy handler at the People’s Choice, Screen Actors Guild and the 1997-1999 Academy Awards shows, Reneé Gentry doesn’t have any trouble handling long-winded celebrities. “I’ll never forget Dick Clark’s advice at my first award show,” says the thirtysomething showroom and runway model for the designer Tadashi. “He said, ‘Get these people off as quickly and politely as possible. Time is money.’ ” Still, Gentry occasionally allows herself to get caught up in the excitement of Oscar night, whether it’s chatting during rehearsals with Sharon Stone (“Talking to her is like talking to a girlfriend,” Gentry says), inquiring after the daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger (“They always thank me for asking,” she says) or teasing James Cameron on the night of his Titanic triumph. “I asked him, ‘Are you still king of the world?’ ” she says. “He replied, ‘I am king of the world!’ And then he hugged me and gave me a big kiss!” But Gentry never ventures too close to the spotlight and always makes sure the gowns she chooses to wear are elegant but not showy. “You’re the bridesmaid,” says Gentry, “not the bride.”

Aimee Becker Ruddell

Being a trophy presenter “is all about keeping everybody calm,” says Aimee Becker Ruddell, 34, who worked the show from 1991 to 1996. That didn’t always prove the easiest duty. When Kevin Costner won Best Director for Dances with Wolves in 1991, “he looked at me like, ‘Where am I? What am I doing? What is this for?’ ” recalls Becker Ruddell, now a stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles. At the rehearsal for the 1992 show, 5’10” presenter Daryl Hannah wobbled around in high heels. “She said, ‘I never wear these things. How do you walk in them?’ ” says Becker Ruddell. Ever the perfectionist, 1993 presenter Barbra Streisand “tried on several outfits for the dress-rehearsal audience and then wore the one they liked best.” Becker Ruddell also learned that some celebrities can be mischievous. Presenting the Foreign Language Film award in 1996, Mel Gibson hit his marks in the rehearsal but during the broadcast walked to the opposite side of the stage from the Oscar girl. “I was bugged at first,” Becker Ruddell says. “But then he looked at me and winked! He was playing a trick on Oscar night and he thought it was hysterical. What can you do? It was Mel Gibson.”

Tracey McGlover

“You get to see a different side of the actors at the Oscars,” says Tracey McGlover, 36, an Oscar girl from 1993 to ’96. “People think that because they are celebrities they’re not nervous, but they are.” McGlover, now a TV talk show producer in L.A., recalls a moment in 1994 when presenter Harrison Ford forgot to hand the Best Picture statuette—for Schindler‘s List—to director-producer Steven Spielberg. “He looked at Steven, then handed me the award because he didn’t want to hang on to it!” she says. Some stars trigger different kinds of memories. In 1993, McGlover was onstage when Unforgiven‘s Clint Eastwood won for Best Director. “All of a sudden, I felt someone breathing on my back,” she says. “I turned around and Jack Nicholson, who was presenting the award, was standing there. He said, ‘You’re beautiful; you should run for Miss America.’ ” But Tom Hanks, whom McGlover escorted for both his Philadelphia and Forrest Gump wins, seemed to appreciate the rigors of the Oscar job. “He always said how classy we were,” she says. “When he saw me, he’d say, ‘You’re the hardest working woman in TV.’ ”