During last year’s Oscar show, as Chevy Chase and Martin Short were approaching the podium to announce Best Actor (and Bruce Davison had just lost Best Supporting Actor for the AIDS drama Longtime Companion to Joe Pesci), a cry came from the middle of the audience. But no one watching the ceremonies on TV heard AIDS activist David Lacaillade shout, ”AIDS action now! 102,000 dead! People are dying!” or saw him carted off the premises by two Pinkerton security guards. Producer Gilbert Cates made certain that cameras were pointed elsewhere, the glamour of the occasion ruling out the real world. This year, however, the Oscars might not get off so easily.
Queer Nation, believed to be partly behind last year’s ”outing” posters, which designated selected celebrities as gay, is planning to target what it calls Hollywood’s pattern of homophobia, citing consistent depictions of gays as either freaks (as in The Silence of the Lambs, JFK, and Basic Instinct) or as closet cases (as in Fried Green Tomatoes). Joined by activists from other L.A.-based gay and AIDS groups, Queer Nation plans to place 250 to 300 demonstrators outside L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where they will picket, block traffic with ”stalled” cars, and hand out maps with the addresses of those whom they say are closeted gay celebrities. But it’s inside the auditorium that the real action might happen.
Sources say at least one sympathetic star — either a presenter or a winner — is expected to speak out on behalf of the demonstrators from the Oscar podium. (Speculation says it could be Thelma & Louise Best Actress nominee Susan Sarandon, scheduled presenter Shirley MacLaine, or Beauty and the Beast Best Song and Original Score nominee Alan Menken, whose songwriting partner, Howard Ashman, died last year of AIDS.) One report claims that gay activists have infiltrated the ranks of Academy ushers and security guards. In addition, celebrities are expected to wear the now-familiar red ribbon in support of people with AIDS.
Despite the attention Queer Nation has already grabbed, Academy executive director Bruce Davis says security ”will be somewhat less secure” than last year, when terrorist threats were being made in the wake of the gulf war. The protesters, he admits, ”may get past us this year. That will be okay.” He adds, though, that ”getting an Oscar is a supreme moment in people’s lives. It would be terrible if something clumsy or vulgar happens in the middle of a moment like that.” Academy spokesman Bob Werden has said, ”Our security people have been meeting on [the demonstrators] for quite some time.”
Ditto the Queer Nation activists, who began coordinating the Oscar protest months ago. Columnist Michelangelo Signorile, who sparked this year’s protest with a blast at Silence in the gay monthly The Advocate, says gays ”are finally focusing on Hollywood in the way the black community did over 10 years ago.” Advocate writer Lance Loud believes Queer Nation has already succeeded. ”Whether they know it or not, they’ve orchestrated a very successful campaign. They’ve made a lot of big people in Hollywood nervous about the Academy Awards.”