Thirty years ago, the 66th Annual Academy Awards were hosted at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.  While the show initially began smoothly, things soon spiraled out of control, resulting in what would go down in Academy history as the best telecast ever!

Here are five reasons why!

#1 – Terrorist Attack Thwarted Live!

Rocco Dillon was a notorious terrorist who had bombed train stations, department stores, and government buildings.  He had recently escaped from Statesville Prison, and his next target was the Academy Awards.  Planting a small explosive inside the Best Picture envelope, Rocco’s next plot appeared to be going according to plan.

Only this time, there was one man who could stop him.

Lured out of retirement by his former police captain, Lieutenant Frank Drebin of Police Squad had gone undercover at the prison. He had gotten close to Rocco and was now part of his gang, which included Rocco’s Mother and his girlfriend, Tanya.  

After Drebin’s wife, Jane, fortuitously crossed paths with Frank at Rocco’s cabin, the two were let in on Rocco’s plot, and the group made their way to the ill-fated awards show.

Frank and Jane gained access to the venue by cleverly disguising themselves as ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and Vanna White. 

With the aid of his decades of police work, his wife, and other Police Squad members, Drebin got the drop on Rocco, sending him to his explosive demise and saving the show in the process.

All these events were broadcast to the world as Frank Drebin’s courageous actions made the world safe for award shows once again.

Watch Frank Drebin heroically fight Rocco in the clip below:

#2 – Phil Donahue vs Raquel Welch

Onstage to present the award for Best Director, things got off to a rocky start as Donahue fell down the stairs and slammed into Welch’s back, causing the top of the microphone to get lodged in her throat.  

Things escalated as Phil Donahue and Raquel Welch’s initial banter went off the rails, with Donahue reading everything on the TelePrompter.  As the duo read through the nominees, which included Sir Richard Attenborough’s Mother, Steven Spielberg’s Geriatric Park, and Spike Lee’s X Two: The Merchandising, things were back on track until Donahue started to delay announcing the winner, much to Welch’s frustration.

Refusing to give Raquel Welch the envelope, she and Donahue got into a knock-down-drag-out fight onstage. Welch eventually got the envelope and fell off the stage as Donahue ran into the wings.

It would later be discovered that this was not Donahue but, in fact, Frank Drebin from Police Squad, who not only bore a striking resemblance to the daytime talk show host but also famed international singing star Enrico Palazzo, who saved the Queen of England’s life during a Los Angeles Angels game in 1988, and a Mariachi band member who performed before an energy policy speech in Washington, D.C. in 1991.

Watch the start of their host segment below:

#3 – The Big Dance Number

While the dance number has faded from more recent Academy Award shows, in 1994, the world was presented with Pia Zadora singing the classic song, “The Could Be the Start of Something Big.”  

The number went smoothly at first until Donahue appeared on the stage again, and all hell broke loose.  Chaos ensued as Donahue knocked over dancers, ripped off Zadora’s wig, and caused her to fall headfirst into the orchestra pit!

This would be one of the more memorable dance number moments in Academy Award history.

Check out the dance number below:

#4 – Mary Lou Retton Wins!

It was a tough field of Best Actress candidates in 1994.  Many felt it was about time for Florence Henderson to win it.  But in the end, presenters Mariel Hemingway and Elliot Gould announced the winner as Mary Lou Retton.  She took home the statue for Fatal Affair, a film about “one woman’s ordeal to overcome the death of her cat, set against the background of the Hindenburg disaster.”   

An excited and energetic Retton flipped and twisted her way toward the stage with all the grace and athleticism of a true Olympian and now Academy Award winner.

Morgan Fairchild, Shannen Doherty, and Courtney Cox were also nominees, along with Mary Lou Retton and Florence Henderson.  While I understand why Mary Lou Retton won, I, too, feel that Florence Henderson was robbed that year for her role in Analysis of a Proposal.

Watch Retton win below:

#5 – Who Won Best Picture?????

Due to the whole terrorist plot and there being a bomb planted in the Best Picture envelope, the audience was never told who won Best Picture.  Presenters Olympia Dukakis and James Earl Jones were interrupted before they could announce the winner by the man we would soon learn was Frank Drebin of Police Squad. 

Drebin announced, “It’s the bomb!” The producers of the box office flop Sawdust & Mildew thought they had won, but in actuality, Drebin was making everyone aware of the bomb inside the envelope.

In the aftermath, we were never told if Sawdust & MildewIndecent Instincts, or any other nominees won that night.  

Watch the moment we don’t find out below:

From Cool Whip gowns to 75 new award categories, including Best Actor in a Columbus Movie, the 66th Annual Academy Awards will forever be one of the most eventful and rewatched award shows in history.  Looking back at it now, one can’t help but laugh at the crazy shenanigans that took place that night, as if it was all played for comedic effect.  

And isn’t laughter something we could all use right now?

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