It takes award nuts like us to appreciate fully the mad scene last night when a man collapsed and an ambulance was summoned to the party at Plein Sud restaurant following the New York premiere of "The Kids Are All Right."
New York Magazine's Vulture blog described the chaos that broke out when my guest to the bash, Tariq Khan -- noted Oscarologist and a news editor at Fox News Channel -- suddenly stopped talking while we stood near the buffet table and he fell backward, straight like a timber, his head hitting the stone floor with a loud whack. A doctor and trauma nurse who were party guests rushed to his aid. Lots of people dialed 911 on their cellphones. The first to break through was a freaked-out chap sitting in the booth next to Tariq's prostrate body who bellowed into his phone, "85 West Broadway! 85 West Broadway!" to an operator who obviously couldn't grasp the simple address where emergency medical help was needed.
Maybe that's why it took the ambulance so long to arrive. New York Downtown Hospital is within walking distance of Plein Sud, but the ambulance didn't show up for nearly 20 terrifying minutes while we tried to surmise Tariq's condition. For the first few moments I feared the worst. The doctor and nurse pushed all of us away, so I could catch only occasional glimpses of his stiff body on the floor. His lips didn't move and his eyes appeared to be frozen open at first, like a dead man's peepers needing pennies to keep them shut. But then the doctor put a towel under Tariq's head, Tariq blinked and s-l-o-w-l-y returned to consciousness as he struggled to respond to the doctor's questions. Initially, Tariq was asked to count one, two, three, four, five, but then Tariq took charge of his own interrogation and this is where the story becomes outrageously amusing to award nuts like us.
"Ask me an Oscar question," Tariq begged the doctor, desperate to test his own lucidity. "Name a year, any year, and ask me who won."
"1966," the doctor replied
"The nominees for best picture that year were 'A Man for All Seasons,' 'Alfie,' 'The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming,' 'The Sand Pebbles,' 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' " Tariq said. " 'A Man for All Seasons' won and took six Oscars overall, including best director, screenplay, cinematography, costume design and best actor Paul Scofield."
I couldn't see the looks on the doctor's and nurse's faces, but they must have appeared equally shocked and relieved. By the time the ambulance finally arrived, they helped Tariq stand up, and the tardy paramedics and I walked him to the ambulance, and he was whisked to New York Downtown Hospital.
As we arrived in the emergency room, Tariq was frisky enough to get into a spat with one of the paramedics who believed quite strongly that Sandra Bullock didn't deserve her Oscar for "The Blind Side." That got Tariq so riled up that the paramedic had to apologize and rescind the opinion so we could get Tariq's blood pressure to return to its normal level and be tested to determine what caused him to collapse at the restaurant.
Over the next four hours, doctors and nurses ran many more tests and ultimately determined that Tariq was fine. Their final diagnosis: It just must have been one of those freak fainting spells triggered by a mystery that may never be solved.
Well, to medical doctors, that is. Truth be told, Tariq and I know what triggered it. Again, to appreciate the point, you must know Tariq and his awards obsession. Just at the point he collapsed during conversation at the restaurant, he was obsessing frantically over the Oscar predicament facing Julianne Moore and Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right."
"Both Julianne and Annette are ridiculously overdue to win an Oscar!" Tariq gasped. "They're both great in 'The Kids Are All Right,' but they're both leads. What do they do? Should one of them drop down to supporting so that they can both win? If so, who should go lead and who should go supporting?"
His face and voice were flush with Oscar panic as he suddenly dropped down and ended up upstaging both stars' New York premiere.
Photo: Recovering Oscarologist Tariq Khan at New York Downtown Hospital some time after 3 a.m. Thursday. Credit: Tom O'Neil