Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Heading into the holidays, there still was no host for the 2019 Academy Awards, following the withdrawal of Kevin Hart over his controversial Twitter history. Next year’s ceremony will be the 30th anniversary of the last time the Oscars went emcee-free, in 1989.
The telecast’s producer, Allan Carr (“Grease,” “Can’t Stop the Music”), tried to fill the void by staging a kitschy opening number that is now considered the most cringe-worthy moment in awards-show history: Rob Lowe’s duet with Snow White on a reworked version of “Proud Mary.” (Sample lyric: “I used to work a lot for Walt Disney, starring in cartoons every night and day.”)
“It’s fitting and proper that we continue to honor the dark and tragic event that befell our nation 30 years later,” Lowe deadpanned. “I’m particularly looking forward to the candlelight vigils.”
By phone, the actor, now 54, talked about why he agreed to the number, the looks he was getting from the audience and real lessons he took from the episode. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What were you thinking?
The academy asked me to do it. I was young and naïve, and I thought, “Well, it’s the academy, they must know what’s best.” I was also a huge fan of [the Oscar-winning composer] Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the number, so I figured he would be writing something great.
At what point did you know the number was tanking?
I remember vividly looking out in the audience and seeing Barry Levinson, who on that particular evening was the