Hey Snow, What are You Doing After the Show? ~ Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Worst Academy Awards Ever

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on February 18, 2009 0 Comments

            Allow me to set the stage.  The date was March 29, 1989 and it was the 61st Academy Awards which honored the films that had come out in 1988.  The show started with Army Archerd interviewing Snow White (apparently he knew her on a first name basis so he called her “Snow”).  She confessed to him she was running late and didn’t know where to go.  He told her that she needed to “follow the Hollywood stars” as if they were the yellow brick road.  Time out.


          You have to understand that this Oscar show was being produced by one Allen Carr, the man who not only produced the movie musical ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ a film that starred ‘The Village People’ he also wrote it.  This might be overkill, but ‘Can’t Stop the Music’ had Steven Guttenberg as the male lead.  Oh, if that wasn’t enough, it was biographically based on ‘The Village People’.  I bet you want to stab yourself in the eye about now.  Unfortunately, Carr trusted his instincts that mixing Snow White with the story of a well-known Dorothy from Kansas would seem logical to not only the Academy, but the audience at home.  It only got worse from there.


          ‘Snow’ makes her way into the auditorium where she attempts to hold the hand of a very reluctant Michele Pfeiffer who looks as if she is moments away from bitch-slapping a Disney Icon.  She then accosts a young looking Tom Hanks while a bemused Robert Downey Jr. (probably high on drugs) and Sigorney Weaver look on.  Eventually ‘Snow’ goes up stairs to the stage set as a 1940’s Hollywood nightclub where, a then still living and unrepentant, Merv Griffin comes out and sings a song about coconuts as stars from yesteryear are rolled out.  First we spy Buddy Rogers, who attended the first Academy Awards as the husband escort to a former America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford, he also appeared in the first Best Picture film, ‘Wings’.  Alice Faye is introduced, it looks as if she almost slips, then her ex-husband is introduced, then his “beautiful wife” Cyd Charisse.  Read in that what you may.

          Suddenly hoe down music is cued, allow me to observe that you really haven’t lived until you see Snow White hoeing, Roy and Dale Evans are introduced to the crowd looking as retarded (retarded not in a way of people with mental disabilities, but retarded in the way of people who should really know better) as ever in their glittery cowboy getup.  By that time the beat was so much that the set tables, with the centerpieces as the heads of dancers, along with attached chairs get up and move.


          This is when Merv tells Snow the best news of all; her date for the night is none other than…  ROB LOWE!  Together (as many do on first dates) they sing ‘Proud Mary’ inspired by Hollywood lyrics.  This terminal illness of song and dance then morphs into ‘Hooray For Hollywood’ with the Rockefeller Rockettes doing leg high kicks to such inspired words such as, “When you are down in the dumps. Try on Judy Garland’s pumps!” 

          The whole production number lasts way over ten minutes (the way the clapping sounded on the telecast I would swear that it was canned).  It ran so long that Carr had to cut the performances of the Oscar nominated songs.  Following this musical version late term abortion was Lilly Tomlin who walked down a staircase and losses a shoe, a la Cinderella.  (Even after sitting through the YouTube clip several times, I don’t know for sure if she meant to lose her shoe or if it was staged – I’m sure it was staged but after what the audience has just seen who knows.)  Tomlin says as way of opening the 61st Academy Awards, “More than a billion and a half people watched that.  And at this very moment they’re trying to make sense of it.”


          As for the fate of her shoe, it was retrieved by a stage hand who literally crawled down the steps as if he was imitating the Linda Blair’s spider walk from ‘The Exorcist’.  (You see why I’m still not sure).    

           Allan Carr had promoted the telecast as a return to high glamour.  He wanted as many stars to attend as he could possibly fit into the ceremony.  Those that wisely declined included; Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Loretta Young, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Rex Harrison, Maureen O’Hara, Mia Farrow, Ann Margret, and (now this is going to slay you) Roseanne Barr. 

          The next memorable production was a number called something ‘Break-out Super Stars of Tomorrow’ which attempted to promote the careers of future Oscar winners.  There are a few recognizable faces (Dr. McDreamy) basically because of current TV dramas or sitcoms…a bit of a step down from the promise of true Hollywood glory.   In this stage where these future stars dance, sing, and monologue is so bare that it looked as if it was set for rehearsal.  It too lasts way too long and makes about as much sense as the Snow and Lowe duet.  


          Oh, there is one more exception to the ‘Break-out Super Stars of Tomorrow.  Chad Lowe, brother of Rob, performed a gut-retching over acted monologue which sealed his fate to always be a second banana.  Little did he know at the time, he would be recognizable as the spouse Hillary Swank forgot to thank when SHE WON her first Academy Award, only to then thank when SHE WON her second, to then be the husband  who dumped his a$$. 

          Overall, show insured that the 61st Awards would be the last that Carr would ever produce.  The only recognizable positive change, if you can label it positive (maybe it’s more of a political correct change) that came out of the broadcast was that it was the first time presenters mumbled, “And the Oscar goes to,” instead of saying “And the winner is.”


          Something this horrendous does not go unnoticed.  Even I knew while watching it in my small hometown in Missouri knew that it was the worst representation of American entertainment ever.  Seriously, I was actually embarrassed for America thinking how a billion worldwide audience was no longer laughing with us but at us.  Such Hollywood royalty as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward complained, even Disney made some noise over copyright infringement (Snow White was dressed in the very familiar Snow White outfit from the Disney animation movie, plus when she sang ‘Proud Mary’ she said, “I used to work a lot for Walt Disney, starring in cartoons ever night and day”). 

          The following year was the first year Billy Crystal hosted.  He is probably the best host of the awards in Oscar history.  That year Cyrstal open by mocking the tacky numbers where dancers pranced around costumed as golden statues, which magically made the Oscars cool again…well, for me at least.


          Poor Snow, aka Eileen Bowman, she was last seen acting in a role as a desk clerk in two episodes of a television show called ‘Renegade’ in 1996. 

          Rob Lowe survived the debacle to then make a sex tape with an alleged under-aged girl and her lesbian older girlfriend and when that didn’t completely kill his career another sex tape emerged proving Lowe to be a fan of ménage a trios.  He resurrected his career (apparently a pretty face and a ‘People’ cover announcing you are contrite is all you need to resurrect your Hollywood stardom) in ‘The West Wing’ to only then leave for a string of failed dramas.  He is back on TV in ‘Brothers and Sisters’ while he addresses a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his nanny.  Oh, according to the Gather gossip Phineas, Rob Lowe may be leaving that show as well.

          As far as the fate of Allan Carr, he never quite got over the universal panning of his Oscars.  He never worked in Hollywood again after failing to deliver on his promise of making his Academy Awards, “the antithesis of tacky.”        



In case you want to view the debacle for yourself


If you want to spy the future stars of tomorrow circa 1989


The winners and the nominated are listed here along with some other good info


More details about the ceremony can be found here



Little interesting side note, in the Super Stars of Tomorrow number Patrick Dempsey, who was then married to a woman 28 years his elder (Rocky Parker) sings with his own step-son, Corey Parker. 


Westerfield © 2009


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