- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Wild & crazy Oscar?

"Social Security, health care reform, and … the Oscars? Yup, when it comes to seemingly intractable problems, the annual Academy Awards telecast ranks right up there with Dubya's dilemmas. Actually, it doesn't. But bear with us.

"Though the show's ratings are second only to the Super Bowl's … the telecast is often poorly scripted, indifferently paced, and chronically bloated the 2000 show clocked in at four hours and eight minutes, making it the longest Oscar night ever.

"And that's just the beginning of ABC's problems. The network reportedly is having trouble filling the telecast's pricey ad slots… .

"Also heading for the exits are last year's producers, Richard and Lili Zanuck. Instead, Oscar telecast veteran Gil Cates is back for his 10th go-round… . His hiring of first-time Oscar host Steve Martin (who'll replace Billy Crystal) is a great first step… .

"So will this year's ceremony finish on time? 'This show will be shorter than last year,' promises Cates."

Clarissa Cruz, writing on "Puh-Leeze Academy," in the March 9 issue of Entertainment Weekly

'Sole exception'

"In 1898, 1,440 12- to 14-year-olds were asked whom they most wanted to resemble. Forty percent chose George Washington or Abraham Lincoln; 78 percent chose a general, a politician or a moral leader. Only two athletes made the cut … and there wasn't a single entertainer on the list.

"By 1986, nine of the 10 names on the World Almanac's list of people most admired by American teen-agers were entertainers. The list included Rob Lowe and Don Johnson and Molly Ringwald. The sole exception was President Ronald Reagan… .

" 'You admire what your culture admires,' a friend insisted not long ago. 'In war, a soldier. In depression, someone resourceful and inventive. But why should our kids have difficult and complex heroes, or even thinking heroes? Our children have lives of ease… .'

"Children are not idiots. They can see that fame and fealty are not the same thing. The more disappointed children are by philandering presidents and gambling basketball players, the more nuanced their ideas of a hero become."

Ian Brown, writing on "Idol Conversation," in Sunday's New York Times Magazine

Oak Ridge White House

"Happy days are here again for the Oak Ridge Boys. 'When George Bush was president, you'd hear about what's "in" and what's "out," and we were "in," ' says Joe Bonsall, the country quartet's tenor… . 'Then Clinton became president, and I read somewhere that Fleetwood Mac was "in" and we were "out." '

"By last spring, though, with time inexorably running out on the term-limited Clinton-Mac reign, Bonsall sensed a turning of the tide. The Oaks had just warmed up the crowd at a George W. rally in Springfield, Mo., when the candidate materialized backstage. 'George W., he come running over to us,' says Bonsall. 'And he says, "Get your tuxedos ready, boys I think we're going to win." '

"Now that the deed is done, Bonsall foresees another spike in the fortunes of his combo, the Bush family's de facto house band… . One qualification, though: 'I don't know that George W. is as diehard a fan as his father,' he says. 'Here's how we knew George Sr. was a fan: When we first met him, he started namin' album cuts not singles, not hits. He said, "Can you do 'Freckles' from the 'Y'all Come Back Saloon' album?" '

"I've always been charmed by the bizarre friendship between the Bush family and the Oak Ridge Boys, because it's so random and, seemingly, so genuine."

David Kamp, writing on "The Oak Ridge Administration, Part II," in the March issue of GQ

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