Awards Season 1984
“The Oscar nominations are out and Barbra Streisand didn’t get any. Today she found out the true meaning of ‘The Big Chill’.” Johnny Carson
That big creep.
Awards Season 1984 started out more than promisingly enough. I remember a lot of it and I have forgotten most of it. It’s hard to imagine but back then, nine years ago, there was not all this coverage about awards as there is today. Or there was not as much front-end coverage. I don’t remember how I found out about the Golden Globe nominations, most likely reading it in the paper the day after they were announced or hearing about it that night on a local news broadcast. I do remember being ecstatic and thrilled for Barbra and was very confident that ‘Yentl’ and Barbra would do well.
The awards were handed out on the last Saturday in January 1984 and the ceremonies would be broadcast the following evening, Sunday. I did not want to know the results before watching the show on television so this meant a complete “press embargo” for Sunday. I couldn’t read a newspaper, turn on the television, listen to the radio. I spent the week prior telephoning everyone I could think of to let them know I would not be answering the phone on Sunday, lest they slip up and spill the news, good or bad.
Fortunately for me Evelyn needed help moving some furniture that weekend. I don’t remember the details but as with every move there were many moving parts. When you live in an apartment and are getting rid of furniture you either leave it out in the hall and let the neighbors have at it or you find someone who needs it and they come get it or you bring it to them. In any event, Evelyn’s move meant taking some furniture from Queens out to Staten Island and then taking some of the furniture that was being moved out of Staten Island to make room for the new stuff somewhere upstate. Got all that?
So we’d do the first bit on Saturday and the second bit on Sunday. As John would be in Jackson Heights prepping for the Sunday broadcast we enlisted him to help. John didn’t understand the scope of the move. He thought we were moving just one piece of furniture. Which we were. But once word gets out that you are moving one piece of furniture it sets off a complete domino affect. You start moving other pieces to make room for things that people are giving you because they hear you have a truck and so on and so on. So one piece of furniture was damn near a complete apartment off-load.
Here’s the thing about moving. When a friend needs to move you help them, when you need to move they will help you. Until you’re 30. Or maybe 35. After that, you’ve done it so much and are worn out and by that time you should be able to hire some real movers. Your furniture will be better, your fine objects will be more delicate, your building will require insurance bonds, and so it is a natural progression up the ladder of success. Hauling furniture is for the young and engaging yourself or anyone else in the process after a certain age is just bad manners.
My memory is that is snowed that Saturday night and I remember letting Evelyn know that I was fine with it all only she best have me back in Jackson Heights and in my kitchen making onion dip by 6 p.m. Which she did.
What can be said about those Golden Globes? My mom had given me a 19-inch color television that Christmas and I remember screaming when they showed Barbra’s face for the first time, sitting in the audience. I remember being thrilled that she won. For some reason I wasn’t too thrilled with what she wore, and I tend never to criticize because I’m no fashion plate, but I thought it was a bit informal for such a stellar occasion. I strike it up to nerves. Mine, for not liking it, not hers for wearing it.
When Cheryl Ladd came out with Mark Rydell to announce Best Director John Hanrahan and Michael Mayer immediately commented on how different she looked. I didn’t notice as I had other things on my mind, but John was convinced she had work done to “de-glamorize” herself and make her look more like a serious actress. I kid you not, and I don’t think I need to repeat that. I think I’ll strike that comment up to nerves as well and let you decide if I mean John’s or Miss Ladd’s.
When Barbra was announced as the winner all discussion of Miss Ladd ceased.
And what were they thinking by asking George Segal to announce Best Picture Musical or Comedy? I mean, granted, maybe most of America might not remember him as Felix Sherman in ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ but I bet you all across America Barbra Streisand fans were beside themselves. I mean, how could he announce any other picture but ‘Yentl’ as the winner? He would have to of course if the envelope contained a different movie title, but still. How would Barbra feel, seeing a former colleague hand the statue to another producer? Do I over think things? Maybe. But I thought that was a bigger concern than Cheryl Ladd’s face. Not to worry. Things played out as they should have and ‘Yentl’ was the winner. Naturally.
My only complaint with the broadcast, and one day I will take Dick Clark Productions to task about this, is that I didn’t like the clips they showed for ‘Yentl’. Or rather, maybe I didn’t like the length of the clips they showed. As far as I was concerned it was Barbra Streisand’s night and they could have showed longer clips. I don’t “do” Barbra, I don’t imitate her, and I don’t dress up like her on Halloween – none of the above. However. That one night I was in such a good mood yet not happy with the clips they aired that I donned my own “tri-colored scarf” and reenacted ‘A Piece of Sky’ for the guests at my party. Well, it was a tribute, and I stand by my decision. And performance. But, all in all, that was a fabulous evening of Golden Globe hysteria and one of the happiest award show watching experiences of my life.
Not so with the Oscars. I knew what day the nominations were being announced. Again, back then they didn’t make a full morning show of it, the announced the nominations I think to be in time for the late edition newspapers back East and television news programs. I couldn’t wait all day to hear the news so I picked up the phone and called Hollywood.
I was working midnights and started telephoning the Academy around noon, New York time. Remember I was a hotel telephone operator and I truly embraced the annonominity afforded by MaBell. When I finally got through I didn’t announce myself as a Barbra Streisand admirer desperate for news of the nominations, they might have hung up. I think I told whoever answered the phone that I was Michael Kaplan from the New York office at MGM/UA and needed to clarify something as we had gotten conflicting reports. I remember I was put through to someone at the Margaret Herrick Library, I guess it was all hands on deck, and repeated my story.
This is Michael Kaplan from New York, we might have heard wrong, did ‘Yentl’ get seven or nine nominations? One moment Mr. Kaplan let me get the sheet with the totals.
How’s that? What did you say?
Four. Two song, one musical score, one Best Supporting Actress. Four.
Stop boiling the water.
It’s funny how quickly the mind works. When this guy said “Four” in my head I saw “Picture” “Director” “Actress” “Song” – not the seven or nine I was hoping for but, okay, I’ll take it if that’s all they were dishing out. As I hung up the phone, in shock I might not need to add, I had nothing to say. I just could not believe it.
The Oscar telecast party that year was a dismal affair, no doubt. I don’t remember it at all. Sometime before Christmas Michael Mayer met me on line for one of the regularly scheduled performances of ‘Yentl’ and told me, “Honey, I saw a preview of a film last night and they are going to mail the Oscar to Shirley MacLaine so get ready.” I like Shirley MacLaine. John and I saw her twice at the Palace Theatre back in ’76 during her “comeback”. John quoted Shirley’s quote about her own nomination being diminished because of Barbra’s lack of one. But it didn’t ease the shock.
I remember watching the Oscars in 1974 hoping to get a glimpse of Barbra, thinking she might show up to sing “The Way We Were” and then run back into the audience to await her announcement as Best Actress. I wasn’t savvy enough to read the TV Guide to see who would be performing the nominated songs. I cringed in sadness at Peggy Lee’s performance. Nothing against Peggy. Years later I saw her several times at the Ballroom in New York, I own many of her records, and appreciate her enormous talent and style. But I just didn’t want to see or hear her that night. The same can be said for Jennifer Holiday and Donna Summer. But I stuck with it hoping Amy might pull an upset, hoping the songs wouldn’t split the vote and one of them might win (neither did) and applauding the Bergmans and Michel Legrand on their well-deserved win.
I did not enjoy the Oscars again until Barbra Streisand presented Best Director in 1986. I thought that was very enjoyable. And well deserved. For her.
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