With the Academy Awards right around the corner, all of Tinseltown is prepping for the massive undertaking of bringing Hollywood charm into millions of homes so that the industry can pat itself on the back.
Please make no mistake, it is massively entertaining as well. And it takes a lot of work to capture that magic. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that the Academy swung and missed in spectacular fashion in a moment that will live in TV infamy known as, “The Worst Academy Awards Number Ever.”
YouTube and the Internet has been scrubbed by ABC of any evidence of the full video, but the horror of the “tribute to Hollywood” remains in the minds of everyone who watched the telecast back in 1989.
To understand what happened, is to understand the mastermind, producer Alan Carr, a musical comedy man who previously produced Grease. Carr recently took in the musical Beach Blanket Babylon and wanted to craft an opening number that was a tribute to the big Hollywood musical numbers of yesteryear.
To quote Samuel Johnson, “Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Carr wanted to mix Hollywood icons with newer, fresher stars as they pay tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Featuring a dead-behind-the-eyes Snow White as she squeaks her way to the Hollywood, represented by a shoddy, makeshift Coconut Grove with Merv Griffin as the host.
The 12-minute features off-key songs by both the non-sanctioned Disney princess and Griffin as they attempt to capture the style of an old-fashioned variety show, which included Merv’s classic tune “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.”
Yeah. This happened. And this was only the first few minutes.
Rob Lowe appears to take Snow to the Oscars, where the two launch into their own version of “Proud Mary” with lyrics meant to fit the audience…
If the audience was tone deaf and hated Hollywood. And possibly music as a whole.
How bad was it? Well…
- Producer Carr never worked again
- Disney would file a complaint over ABC (this was before the Mouse owned the Alphabet) over the use of the Snow White character, despite the fact that the character was in the public domain
- Industry icons including Julie Andrews, Gregory Peck and Paul Newman signed an open letter calling the telecast “”an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry”
- And every year, some schmuck with a keyboard writes a tribute to it, so that it is never forgotten (Hi!)
On the bright side, Mayim Bialik seemed to weather the opening number well, as her career seemed to recover nicely.
The other takeaway is that proven funnymen scribe Bruce Vilanch and comedian Billy Crystal were brought in the following year to help get Oscars back on track.
And from that moment forward, while there might be a few misses, there is nothing as off-the-rails or as career ending as Snow White’s first trip to the Oscars.