They've had a streaker, they've had gate-crashers, they've had people sitting in the audience for hours so that they could run up on stage and refuse Oscars. But the Academy Awards have rarely had the panic they had Tuesday night when the award for Best Animated Short was announced.
Margot Kidder and Alan Arkin announced the winner as "The Fly" and Hungarian producer Ferenc Rofusz. They had already accepted it for Rofusz when a mustachioed man in glasses bounded out of the audience.
In true Hollywood style, Kidder kissed him first, then asked him if he was Rofusz. The man said he was not, but accepted the award anyway, with a short, foreign-accented speech.
He even posed for pictures and attended the Academy ball. But some time during the celebrations, the people who'd been asking themselves if this guy was for real started asking each other, and the rumors started that the biggest prank in Academy history had just been played. Wire services said the man was being sought for theft of an Oscar statuette.
Academy spokesman Art Sarno tried to ease the embarrassment by claiming that "no one was ever worried it was stolen. It was just an odd incident."
But nobody knew who the man was, not even the Hungarian embassy in Washington. They recommended a call to the New York consulate.An official there sounded puzzled at the uproar.
"The man who got the Oscar was Ferenc Rofusz," he said, carefully spelling the name.
No, he was told. Who was the man who carried it away?
"Ah, that was Istvan Dosai," he said. Istvan Dosai?
"He is general director of Hungaro-film," said the official.