He's the guy with The Envelopes, Please. Last Friday, he and one trusted associate tallied up all the votes for the Oscars and sealed away the names of the winners. They are the only ones who know.

A lot of gamblers would like to cut him in on the action. Give him a phony passport and a plane ticket from Los Angeles to the Seychelles. Press the right button and you've got Alec Guinness, the unassuming clerk running off with the dough in "The Lavender Hill Mob."

The only flaw in the caper is that, from all evidence, he is more the man for whom Diogenes had been searching.

His name's Frank Johnson. He's a certified public accountant, a partner at the Los Angeles downtown office of Price-Waterhouse. For the last four years he's been one of two guys who hand the envelopes containing the names of Academy Award winners to the presenters on television.

Johnson looks like an all-star uncle for your kids. He's 43, six feet tall, sandy-haired and a bit more burly than when he played varsity tennis for UCLA in the late 1950s. Light blue shirt. The exact color of his eyes is hard to pin down -- they are pale and clear behind silver-rimmed glasses.

There are two models of fighter planes on his office desk and one big charcoal print of a Paris street scene on the wall. He's straightforward and mild and meets all the questions head-on. The suggestion of the nefarious deals he is in a position to make doesn't even rate a furrow on his brow. You get the idea that such thoughts never cross his mind.

"No, I've never been approached by gamblers," says Johnson. "A couple of years ago I went to lunch with an attorney who asked a question about a certain nominee. I was very upset that anyone even brought the subject up. I try to avoid any contact like that."

"The reputation of [Price-Waterhouse] depends upon maintaining confidentialities," says Johnson. "I work with one person every year -- and sometimes we have to get a typist. So there will sometimes be three people who know the results. But everyone else rotates from year to year. So since I took over in 1977, I have been the continuity."

Johnson says the system is as leakproof as is humanly possible, and has been refined since Price-Waterhouse first monitored the balloting for the Academy in 1935. Johnson and other Price-Waterhouse people get an approved list of Academy members every year and then make sure that the addresses are correct. The ballots are sealed and hand-delivered to the appropriate post office.

"We've learned that the Beverly Hills Post Office is usually slower, so we mailed out the ballots earlier this year," says Johnson. They go out as first-class mail, but not registered or insured. Each ballot is numbered, so that if one gets lost, a replacement ballot with a new number is issued. If a member of the Academy doesn't receive a ballot, he or she calls Price-Waterhouse personally. "So unless we hear a complaint, we must assume all the ballots are legitimate," says Johnson.

This year the ballots were due by 5 p.m. Monday, April 7. Ballots on deadline are sometimes brought over personally, sometimes by chauffeurs. "I don't remember any famous people running into our offices, but we do get a few last-minute visits," said Johnson.

Johnson selects about five Price-Waterhouse people to count certain segments of the ballots. "These people only know a portion of the count," he explained. "Myself and one other person each year are the only ones who assemble these segments into a final count. And when we assign them we warn them of the grave consequences if any information gets out."

What was biggest temptation?

"My first year [1977] Alec Guinness had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor," recalls Johnson. "He had sent a telegram indicating what he wanted someone to say if he won for his part in 'Star Wars.' People were running around like crazy trying to find the person who was supposed to read the message. I had to suppress the urge to tell them to forget it and relax. I knew he hadn't won."

Has anyone ever read the wrong name?

Johnson says no and there's a reason. Besides Price-Waterhouse's careful ballot counting the presenters such as Farrah Fawcett and Ben Vereen have rehearsed for days. "They read out the list of nominees and then they read out a sample winner picked at random during the practices," says Johnson. "We give them the envelope with the name of the actual winner at the last second so they won't know. And if they have trouble reading we print the name in letters two or three times larger than normal."

Despite appearing on one of television's top-rated shows every year, Frank Johnson has escaped celebrity. He says he's relieved. "Only my friends tell me they saw me on the show," he says. "No stranger has ever recognized me on the street."

And if anyone were to offer him an envelope with enough cash to buy a solid gold Oscar (they weigh eight pounds but are only gold plated) and a wealthy future in South America, Frank Johnson would hesitate a second. Then he'd go play tennis.