From the E-Mailbag…
I seem to have dredged up many a memory with my post that linked to the article on the 1989 "Snow White" number at the Oscars. Jonathan Sloman links me to an article he wrote about it which should tell you everything you could want to know about it.
I will quibble with one thing Jonathan wrote: Where he said the ceremony was watched by seventy-five million U.S. viewers plus another estimated seventy-five million worldwide. Everyone quotes numbers like that and we'll doubtlessly hear that this year's Oscarcast is being seen by a billion — or even two billion — people around the world. Nope, not even close to that. The actual ratings show us that the Academy Awards show reaches somewhere between 40 and 60 million viewers per year in this country. No statistics have ever been compiled as to how many watch worldwide — or at least if they have been compiled, they haven't been released. But let's be logical. It's an American show in English and almost wholly about American movies. Is that likely to get a few hundred million viewers in Belgium? Or Peru? I'd be very surprised if the total viewership outside the United States even equalled the total viewership inside the United States.
Meanwhile, my friend of many decades, Alan Light, writes…
Thanks for directing me to the article "I Was Rob Lowe's Snow White." I attended the Oscars in person that year, and the two days of rehearsals prior to the telecast. A friend who was working on the production company that year invited myself and another friend out from Iowa.
I vividly remember sitting in the audience during the rehearsal of the Snow White number, watching it performed over and over again. The first time or two my friend and I looked at each other with our jaws on the floor…."They think this is good?"…and by the tenth time we were numb.
I took a photo of Army Archerd and Snow White during the rehearsal (photo above) and I had my picture taken with Rob Lowe at the Governor's Ball after the show. Cameras were strictly prohibited, of course, but being the tourist from Iowa, I snapped many photos with my pocket 35MM film camera anyway, including great shots of Lucille Ball taken a month before she died as I stood next to her on the red carpet during the arrivals. Talk about surreal for a guy from Iowa. Nobody yelled at me for taking pictures at any time, so I got braver and braver. My all-access pass did not include the Governor's Ball, but when the telecast was over my friend and I had the choice of going back to the hotel or trying to crash it, so we displayed our badges prominently, grabbed some papers from somewhere and looked as though we were talking about something important as we passed the guards at the entrance to the Ball. Nobody stopped us. Once inside, taking photos was like shooting fish in a barrel.
All of my photos are online here — several hundred of them. Anyway, thanks again for directing your readers to this article.
Thanks, Alan. Some fine shooting there. I suspect what made the number so notorious was the awkward reaction of the stars who were approached during it…something that couldn't have been anticipated in rehearsal. I further suspect that since then nothing at the Oscars is spontaneous if they can help it. Billy Crystal running out into the audience to sit on Jack Nicholson's lap…that couldn't have been a surprise to Jack.