The last time the Oscars were hostless, things did not go well

30 years ago, a singing Rob Lowe and Snow White, along with dancing coconuts, marked a low point for the show.

30 years ago, a singing Rob Lowe and Snow White, along with dancing coconuts, marked a low point for the show

Rob Lowe and Snow White (played by Eileen Bowman) perform at the 1989 Academy Awards. (Academy Awards)

For the first time since 1989, the Oscars will take place without a host. Since Kevin Hart, following a controversy regarding past homophobic tweets, stepped down from the role, the Oscars have failed to secure a new host — a role that's been dubbed as one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood.

Producers are reportedly planning to have a number of A-list actors introduce segments throughout the night, and while that might not sound too bad on paper, all it takes is a look back to the 1989 broadcast to see just how bad it can actually be. The 1989 Oscars broadcast is considered to be, quite simply, the worst in the award show's history. It was so bad, in fact, that the producer of the show, Allan Carr, the man behind films such as Grease and Grease 2, never worked in Hollywood again. His last producer credit on IMDb is listed as The 61st Annual Academy Awards.

But what could be so bad about an award show as to damage a respected producer's reputation irreparably? All one has to do is watch the opening number, which included in its approximately 11-minute runtime, among others things, Snow White, dancing Hollywood stars (as in, actual five-point stars), a singing Merv Griffin, dancing coconut drinks, a line of bellhops doing the can-can, Vincent Price and Snow White's "blind date," Rob Lowe, singing gloriously off pitch to the tune of Proud Mary. It was a lot to take in, and as Lily Tomlin quipped onstage following the number, "at this very moment they're trying to make sense of it."

Lowe, who had already starred in such films as St. Elmo's Fire and The Outsiders, somehow survived to have a career in Hollywood, unlike the producer. He was asked to reflect on that number by the New York Times.

"I remember vividly looking out in the audience and seeing Barry Levinson, who on that particular evening was the belle of the ball with Rain Man," he said. "And I could see him very clearly popeyed and mouthing, 'what the [expletive]?' But to be a successful actor, you have to have a big dollop of self-denial, so I managed to convince myself that I'd killed it."

To be a successful actor, you have to have a big dollop of self-denial.- Rob Lowe

But of course, that was not all. The night, which was geared around celebrity presenters and musical routines, also included a number called "The Stars of Tomorrow." Introduced by Lucille Ball and Bob Hope, it featured a number of up-and-comers, such as Ricki Lake, Christian Slater and Chad Lowe, singing about their wishes to be nominated for on Oscar. Blair Underwood opens the number singing, "Someday, I'll be the one who walks up here accepting the prize," Patrick Dempsey gets in a sword fight and dances Sammy Davis Jr.-style with a cane, Corey Feldman does his best Michael Jackson impression, and so much more. It looks and sounds exactly like the type of group number you would see at Disneyland or on a cruise ship. The song the group was singing was called I Wanna be an Oscar Winner, which is an award that no one in the ensemble has yet to ever be nominated for.

"That was the worst premonition in the show's history," Feldman told People when asked about the number last year.

"The dancing was good but the singing left a bit to be desired," Feldman also said. "So hopefully I get another opportunity to do something the right way at the Academy Awards."

Although, to be honest, the only way for the Oscars to do something the right way would be never to repeat what happened in 1989.

About the Author

Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Producer, CBC q

Jesse Kinos-Goodin is a Toronto-based journalist and digital producer for q. He can be found on Twitter @JesseKG or email


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