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Oscar hosts often are remembered more than most winners

by on March 5th 2010 at 12:17 am

Hosts Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin. abc.com photo

The Oscars breed trivia of all sorts. Who won, who lost, who did they wear, what did they say?

But what about the hosts? This year's duo, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, will be attracting much more attention than, say, the cinematography winner. Did their jokes work? Did they work well together? Will they sing? Will they dance? Might they wear something other than standard issue tuxedos during the long and winding night?

The Sunday, March 7th telecast on ABC will mark the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony. Over the years, many hosts have done so multiple times. Others, including David Letterman, have never been asked back. So let's take a closer look via a Q&A in which yours truly will both ask and answer some questions that hopefully will have you saying, "Hey, I didn't know that."

Has any solo Oscar host ever actually won an Oscar before accepting the job?

Yes, but it's a rarity. The last host with an Oscar on the mantle was Whoopi Goldberg, in 2002. She had earlier won for best supporting actress in the 1990 film Ghost.

The 1985 solo host, Jack Lemmon, had won two Oscars at that point, for 1955's Mister Roberts and 1973's Save the Tiger. Plus, in 1963, Frank Sinatra presided over the Oscars after winning in 1953 for his supporting role in From Here to Eternity. And that's all, folks.

Who's hosted the most?

That record likely will always belong to Bob Hope, who presided 11 times by himself and another seven times with other hosts. Billy Crystal is No. 2 on the list with eight solo acts.

Women, on the other hand, have very seldom been asked to emcee the Oscars without any male accompaniment. Goldberg is the runaway record-holder, with four stand alone appearances as host. The only other woman who can say as much is Ellen DeGeneres, whose sole appearance to date was as 2007's solo host.

What's the funniest opening line from a host?

I've always been partial to Chevy Chase, who began the 1987 shebang with, "Good evening, Hollywood phonies."

Johnny Carson gets the consolation prize for his 1979 greeting to the assembled Hollywood phonies. "I see a lot of new faces," he deadpanned, "especially on the old faces."

Was David Letterman really that bad when he hosted the 1995 Oscars?

Ya know, he really wasn't. But Letterman then immediately began beating himself up night after night on his CBS Late Show, fostering the impression that he had utterly bombed. On his first post-Oscars late nighter, he told viewers, "Looking back, I had no idea that thing was being televised."

In reality, the Letterman-hosted Oscars had the highest ratings in more than a decade, perhaps helped a bit by the popularity of the best picture winner, Forrest Gump. Still, everybody seems to remember his "Oprah/Uma, Uma/Oprah" riff, directed at the less than amused Oprah Winfrey and Uma Thurman. And Letterman's done nothing to dissuade them.

Baldwin and Martin should be good together. But when was the last time the Oscars had more than one host?

It was back in 1987, when Chase shared the stage with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan. And in 1989 there was no official host at all, the last time that's happened.

Who hasn't hosted yet who should?

In his prime, I would have said Robin Williams. But it's likely too late for that now. Tina Fey also might be a terrific choice, especially since women have had so few opportunities. But the optimum Oscar host, in this day and age, would be George Clooney. And I think someday he will.

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