Inside the 'Night of 100 Stars' Gala: Stars Reminisce About Past Oscar Nominations

12:19 AM PST 02/28/2011 by Alex Ben Block

Ed Asner, Sally Kirkland, Ernest Borgnine, Sally Kirkland and other previous nominees recall how the Academy recognition boosted their careers.

BEVERLY HILLS -- While the Oscars put the emphasis on youth, that wasn't the case at the "Night of 100 Stars" Oscar Gala in the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunday night, where there were a bevy of past Oscar nominees and winners on hand to recall what it means when the Academy calls.

"It means everything in the world," said 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine, who took home an Oscar as best actor for the drama Marty 55 years ago, adding: "A nomination is tantamount to saying, 'Look, I'm up there with the rest of them. You're holding your own. This is what it's all about whether you win, lose or draw.' "

For the 21st year in a row, more than 100 stars showed up in black tie and their best gowns for the annual Oscar viewing party to remember what it is all about and to see a lot of old friends at the event produced by former agent Norby Walters. This year, the turnout of famous and familiar faces included Richard Dreyfuss, Ben Vereen, Connie Stevens, Diane Ladd, Fred Willard, Joanne Worley, Lea Thompson, Mariette Hartley, Rich Little and many, many others who filled every seat in the Crystal Ballroom.

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 Among the past award winners in attendance was Bruce Davison, who was nominated by the Academy as best supporting actor for his role in the 1989 AIDS drama Longtime Companion. Davison credited the Oscar spotlight for keeping him employed for years after. "I've had a career for 20 years on the back of it," said Davison, who described the nomination as a "nice ramp-up" for his career. "It got the wheels rolling," he added. "It put me in a room with a lot of great people."

Davison said it also brought him more choices in material and roles, although he did find himself stereotyped for a time. "I did have a lot of bedside manner parts for a long time after," said Davison, "but it did make them say, 'Yeah, that guy. He can do this.' From there you just have to keep the momentum going any way you can."

Sally Kirkland, nominated for the 1987 indie film Anna, said it super-charged her career for the first three to five years with roles that paid well and has helped sustain her ever since. "I've been working for 45 years now," said Kirkland, "and I have never had to take a job outside of acting, so the Oscar nomination helped keep me always in the working loop."

Gary Busey, nominated as best actor for playing the title role in the 1978 bio pic The Buddy Holly Story insisted everyone who is nominated is a winner because "there is no competition in art."

The Oscar did give him a career boost, but Busey said, "It's not the Oscar that affects your career. It's you and your behavior."

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Busey admitted his career was just as impacted by his reputation as a wild man on and off the set. "I was once very difficult to work with," said Busey, who was accompanied by his fiance who is the mother of his 1-year-old son, and his grown son, Jake, who is also an actor. "Now I'm settled, happy and into giving. It's just a beautiful thing to do because there's no pressure on you. The pressure you have is what you put on yourself. When you are full of fear, you are making yourself afraid. When you are in doubt, you're debating with yourself and when you debate with yourself, there are no winners."

Ed Asner, still working at 81 years of age, has been in Oscar-winning movies, including voicing the lead in the 2009 animated hit Up, but has never been nominated for an Oscar. However, he has been nominated for an Emmy 15 times and won seven, which he said always made him "joyous."

However, Asner insisted it never got him access to better material or more jobs. "It never made a goddamn bit of difference," he said. "Awards don't mean anything in terms of what you are offered. They do put your name out there, so maybe it remains people you are available."

Being nominated for a major award really is a win, said Borgnine, recalling that he was nominated in 2009 for a Golden Globe for the TV movie A Grandpa for Christmas.

"There were a lot of people who said when I lost 'Oh my god, he lost.' I said, 'No I didn't.' They said 'How did you win?' I said, 'I was nominated.' That's what it's all about."

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