The first Academy Awards I attended in person were held in 1981, to honour films of 1980. Would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. shot U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 30, Oscar day. So organizers in Hollywood delayed their ceremony for 24 hours.
That meant they also delayed announcing of one of the most egregious mistakes in Oscar history: Robert Redford's modest drama Ordinary People beating Martin Scorsese's masterful Raging Bull for best picture.
Regardless, the delay could not be called a highlight of my Oscar experience, out of respect for Reagan, who recovered, and his press secretary James Brady, who was left paralyzed. But one of the events of March 31st does stand out -- and reminds me how casual and intimate the Oscars used to be. Now they are a tightly controlled and manipulative publicity machine.