Remembering Rob Lowe and Snow White at the 1989 Oscars
When the Academy lost comedian Kevin Hart as host for this year’s 91st Academy Awards, they made an unusual decision. They made the choice to have nobody replace him. As a result people started wondering if the Oscars had ever happened without a host before. The answer is yes, at the infamous 1989 Oscars, where Snow White and Rob Lowe kicked off the show with a song and dance number.
If I’m being completely honest: I had never heard of this moment in time before. I’m actually ecstatic about Kevin Hart dropping out of hosting, since without it this moment would have never been rediscovered. So what’s the story behind this?
The man behind the 1989 Oscar opening was Allan Carr, who had previously produced the classic film Grease and the horrible follow-up Grease 2, along with the horrible Village People film Can’t Stop The Music. When he was asked to take on the Oscars, he came up with the following.
That’s right, instead of having a host mock the audience, it seemed like a better idea to have Snow White sing for a whole 15 minutes. In another case of audience interaction gone wrong, the A-list celebrities (such as Tom Hanks, and Robert Downey Jr.) who are present look horrified. The whole thing kicks off in such a cringe-worthy fashion, that in another universe it could explain the disappearance of Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, or Bridget Fonda).
As the sketch was dead on arrival, we don’t think it was a great feeling for Rob Lowe when he had to join the whole thing midway through. A few months earlier Lowe’s career had taken a hit when he was at the center of a sex tape scandal, involving an underage girl. In an attempt to correct his image he agreed to join the ceremony, thereby following up an actual crime with a Hollywood crime. The whole thing would be so badly received that members such as Gregory Peck and Paul Newman would later send a letter to the Academy calling the telecast “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry”.
Perhaps the best description of this disaster comes from actress Eileen Bowman, who as an unknown actress had landed the role of Snow White. She had the following to say in 2013;
The show itself looked like a gay bar mitzvah. Middle America must have been like: “What is going on? There are dancing tables, there’s Snow White singing with Rob Lowe, there’s Merv Griffin with people with coconuts on their head!”
Allan Carr’s career never recovered from the ceremony. I am very excited to see what the Academy cooked up this time around, and to see which producer and A-lister will be publicly shamed. Do you have any theories about what we’ll see at this year’s Academy Awards?