TV Reporter - David Letterman Article

David Letterman will make a rare foray away from his CBS late-night program into the prime-time hours Monday as host of ABC's telecast of the 67th annual Academy Awards ceremony, originating from Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium.

He becomes the latest of the comedy stars who have presided over the American motion-picture industry's top event -- ranging from Bob Hope and Johnny Carson to Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg -- but given Letterman's particular brand of barbs, the humor in his monologue and subsequent introductions of celebrity presenters could be among the most pointed ever delivered during an Oscar show. Mention of the popular "Hoop Dreams," which fueled a controversy after it was denied a Best Documentary nomination, is a certainty.

His presence also supports the theme of this year's program, a tribute to comedy throughout the history of the movies.
Traditional elements of the scheduled three-hour broadcast will include the bestowing of several special trophies: composer-producer Quincy Jones will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Clint Eastwood will be given the Irving G. Thalberg Award for career achievement, and veteran Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni will receive an honorary Oscar.
If having Letterman in the on-air driver's seat is a new wrinkle for the Academy Awards, the show remains under the overall supervision of someone familiar with the job. Gilbert Cates -- a filmmaker ("Call me Anna," "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams") as well as dean of UCLA's film school, is producing the Oscar broadcast for the sixth consecutive year.

"I don't know why," he says, laughingly, of agreeing to handle the demanding and complicated undertaking again. "They
used to give women an odd drug when they gave birth. It didn't reduce the pain, it just made them forget it, so they'd do it
again because they'd forgotten how awful it was. That's what happens with these shows. You forget about having to get up at 4 in the morning for things, but it's fun. I'm really enjoying it."

Still, Cates says that he's claimed each year of Oscar-producing would be his last one "every year I've done the show. I feel stupid saying it, now that I'm doing this for the sixth time, but I'm saying it again this year. UCLA lets me off for the two months that I'm doing it, so it worked out and here I am."

Though much attention and anticipating surrounds Letterman's first-time stint as Oscar host, Cates says that aspect "has been traumatic every year. The first year I did it was also the first that we got Billy Crystal to do it, then each of the three other years he did it, he (initially) felt he didn't want to. Ultimately, I talked him into it, but it was always difficult and down to the last wire. Getting Whoopi to do it was hard and getting David to do it was hard, and the reason for that is that it's a very difficult job. It's almost as if there's nothing to win and a lot to lose. If you do a great job, people expect that of you anyway. If you don't do a great job, everybody sees it -- your family, your agents, your professional colleagues, taxi drivers, just everybody sees you fall on (your face). That's why most hosts I've spoken to give it a lot of thought before they agree to do it."

That definitely was the case with Letterman, since much speculation in the press preceded the announcement of the actual deal being struck. "If you're a host or a stand-up comic or a performer who relates to doing live shows, this is the ultimate live show," Cates says. "It really is the brass ring in a way, with a billion people and a hundred countries (watching), and a share of the American audience that's always humongous. If that (sort of entertainment is) what you do for a living, ultimately, you have to do this show at some point.

There's a history of that, and I also think this is very seductive. After (a prospective Oscar host) goes through the process of agonizing over the ups and downs, it comes down to this being the biggest place to do what they do. I think it has nothing to do with me or the movies of a given year, but with the fact that this is the granddaddy of all these shows.

"We also have stars that you just don't see anywhere else," Cates adds, "so while this will be a show that clearly reflects Letterman's humor and point of view, we still have to accomplish certain things. Our theme this year is comedy in the movies, and since it was a pretty dismal year in the real world -- with earthquakes, wars and the like -- it's wonderful to be able to go to a movie theater and sit down for two hours and laugh. It's an appropriate theme for this year, and an appropriate theme for David. There will be a lot of (related) film packages, as well as a (musical) number or two." However, Cates doesn't expect comedy talents to outnumber dramatic ones in terms of the presenter lineup. "People really want to see big stars, and once you get past a couple of obvious examples (in comedy), the bulk of the big stars are in drama."
"David Letterman hosts the 67th Annual Academy Awards on ABC"

"Expect an Oscar show like no other this week, thanks to one person likely to dominate the evening, and
he's not even a nominee"

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March 26th 1995
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