Sunday, February 27, 2011
Steal this post: It's WHODATHUNKIT!? The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the 83rd Annual Academy Awards!
It's time again for Whodathunkit!? - -that feature that takes a major public event like, say, The Academy Awards, or that time you almost barfed on the Tilt-A-Whirl, and focuses in like a laser beam aimed through a convex lens at a microscope held by a sharpshooter, looking not at what everybody else is talking about, but on the things you really want to know.
Would it be a convex lens? Or a concave lens? Does it matter? Nobody's going to try that, right? So it's not like someone out there would hook up a laser beam to all that stuff, only to have the wrong lens scatter the laser beams into the air, shooting down birds and causing a mass panic about what might be killing them until a quasi-governmental agency makes up a story that the birds were just confused by fireworks and ran into buildings, explaining it all away by saying that the birds had tiny little lumps on their heads surrounded by tinier stars and birds circling them in a comical cartoon fashion...
... but nobody fooled me, and when the Trilateral Commission puts Sarah Palin in charge of America, declares martial law and reveals that Twinkies have a secret mindcontrol ingredient, I'll be the one laughing, while you all say "What in God's name did that have to do with birds and/or the Academy Awards?"
Which is for me to know, and you to find out. And with that bizarre introduction, let's focus in like what I said before on those three things you really want to know about tonight's ceremony:
1. You know that Oscar statue you saw on eBay? It might have been real, so you probably should've bid more than $2.54. Much is made of the security of the Academy Award balloting every year, with the legend of how tightly the votes and results are guarding getting more and more elaborate with each showing of the awards ceremony; this year, according to reliable sources, the ballots were put into a locked treasure chest wound thrice about with chains made of equal parts steel and the tears of orphans, then sunk in a leaden box to the bottomless depths of the Marianas Trench, where they were guarded by mythical beasts made real by genetic experiments funded by Rupert Murdoch. Plus, there were accountants involved somehow.
Have you ever wondered why we need accountants to count the Oscar votes? And, have you ever wondered why accounting schools don't use that as a selling point to get more people to be accountants?:
"Come to Murray's School Of Accounting, accrediting pending, and while you might spend 364 days of each year toting up how much your boss spent on Post-It notes, there's a possibility that someday you'll get to know a few hours before everyone else who's going to win best supporting actor."
But that security over the votes seems to have missed a beat when it comes to guarding the statues themselves. Which is especially surprising given that the Academy is insistent that nobody but nobody except the winners ever own an Oscar statue (as I noted last year.)
On at least two occasions, the actual Oscar statuettes have been stolen; the more recent was a heist of 55 statues back in 2000. Two men were charged with grand theft for taking the statues from a Roadway Express site where they were waiting to be shipped. One of the thieves got 6 months in jail and 5 years' probation, plus was ordered to pay back the reward money that his employer had offered to help find the Oscars. An alleged accomplice, Anthony Keith Hart, was arrested but never charged, and later sued for false arrest (but lost.)
52 of the 55 missing Oscars were located by a man named Willie Fullgear, who got the $50,000 reward the thief had to pay back, but it wasn't exactly a happy ending for Fullgear, who put the money in a safe in his apartment only to have thieves steal $40,000 or so of it. Fullgear did get to go to the ceremony that year.
One of the still-missing three Oscars was later found in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area during a drug investigation, because under federal law Florida must be involved at least tangentially in every news story. The remaining two are still missing.
2. You said there were two thefts, but you only talked about one. What's the deal?
You're reading this pretty closely. Good for you! See if you can decipher the code I've hidden in here; one lucky winner who unscrambles it will be awarded one million dollars!*
The other Oscar theft was more brazen and even more deserving of being made into a TV Movie Of The Week. It's the story of Alice Brady and the Oscar Thief, which should be a Bob Dylan song, but isn't.
Alice Brady was an actress back in the 1930s, when all it took to be an actress was a quick trip to Hollywood by train, quick being "about four and a half weeks," longer if you got sick with typhoid, which happened automatically on the railroads back then unless you upgraded to the first class ticket. Nowadays, becoming an actress is much harder; you have to work and slave at your craft and appear in dozens of tiny parts while working your way "up the ladder" in the hopes that eventually you'll land a starring role and will sweep America off its feet, giving you fame and fortune which you can then turn into even bigger fame and fortune by marrying a dirtball biker who wants to sleep with Nazis so that when you get dumped right around the time your generic feel-good movie is being considered for an Oscar itself, you'll sweep the Awards.
Or you could wash somebody's car, if you get my drift.
Anyway, Alice Brady appeared in a bunch of movies that nobody remembers because they were made in the 1930s, when nobody had any money because we were in the middle of The Great Depression, an economic downturn that lasted a decade, if not longer, sticking around that long because nobody had the foresight to simply fire all the government workers, a solution that we all know now to be a miracle cure for any economic problems; and, if that doesn't work, you could always just deny basic health care to terminally ill people, saving as much as $0.12 per capita, which money can be used to help keep private jets for billionaires flying smoothly. If only FDR had known!
Even though nobody saw the movies back then, because, as your grandfather said over and over when you were only pretending to listen to him, they only made 2 cents per year and they had to use that money to buy V-Bonds to help fight Jerry in the war, the Academy still existed and still gave away awards to people like Alice Brady, who couldn't attend the ceremony in 1937, when she was up for (and won) Best Actress for her role in the movie "In Old Chicago." Alice couldn't attend because she had a broken ankle, which in the 1930s was fatal.
During the ceremony, a man came onstage to "accept" the Academy Award for Alice, but that turned out to be a clever ruse -- Alice later called the Academy to say she'd never gotten her award (having to wait to do so until the telephone had been invented), and only then did the Academy learn that they'd been duped.
Alice never got her Academy Award, either; her IMDB page notes that she passed away before the Academy could issue a replacement; she died two years later, which backs up every single thing I said about transportation in the 1930s. Although, in fairness, the Academy just probably had trouble finding gold because FDR had it all locked away so that he could impoverish the country into being forced to accept his socialist reforms. Too bad for us all that didn't work and he had to fake the Pearl Harbor bombing.
3. It would be hard to top that story. Are you going to try?
You bet. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.
How do you top stealing an Oscar?
How do you top stealing fifty-five Oscars?
By stealing an Oscar winner.
Yep, that happened, to Charlie Chaplin.
Charlie Chaplin was an Oscar winner, but not for what most people think he'd win for: his "little tramp" movies (which he copied from Johnny Depp's routine in Benny & Joon) and other famous "comedies" never caught the fancy of the Academy, which back then hadn't yet begun nominating every single movie released during the year for an Award. Chaplin's film career, in fact, never led to a single Oscar for him... but he got one for composing.
Chaplin was an accomplished composer, having scored his own films. His song "Smile" his number 2 on the UK charts in the 50s:
and he later hit number one with "This Is My Song,"
but it wouldn't be until 1973 that Chaplin got his Oscar, for best film score on his movie Limelight.
Not content with stealing his Oscar, someone five years later dug up Chaplin's grave and stole his body -- don't worry, Chaplin had died by that time; it wouldn't be until 2010 when America got around to sneaking a "mandatory interment of all people over the age of 65" clause into Obamacare (unluckily for us, but luckily for Grandma, that particular clause was ruled unconstitutional!) -- demanding a ransom of $40,000 for its return, a ransom his widow, the Lady Oona Chaplin refused to pay, saying that "Charlie would have thought it ridiculous."
Two men were later caught and charged with the crime, with the police catching them by not only tapping the Chaplins' phone, but also keeping watch on 200 separate phone booths, in what can only be described as a complete misunderstanding of how phone taps work.
They caught them, I bet, when they realized that one man who kept coming to a certain booth was lugging a coffin with him.
The body is now buried in Grant's tomb, next to Jim Morrison's corpse and alongside Walt Disney's cyborg shell.
No, I'm just kidding; that would be ridiculous, since everyone knows that Disney wouldn't tolerate being buried with a Jewish man. The body is instead buried in what's described as a "theft proof concrete grave" to deter septuagenarians, the only people who remember Chaplin, from digging him up again.
Click here to read last year's Academy Award Whodathunkit!?
*Prize cannot be collected until October 8, 2094, and will be awarded in the only currency that will be recognized by then, "Bristol Bucks," to be named after President-For-Life Bristol Palin. Don't ever doubt the power of the Trilateral Commission!