Ed#451: Peeved Pig

7 February 2014 Alan Attwood

Ed#451: Peeved Pig

Some things are less impressive the closer you get to them. Academy Awards ceremonies, for example. I covered two of them in the mid-1990s, when I was a US-based newspaper correspondent. What I remember most is not the glitz and glamour and fashions that are often mentioned when the topic turns to Oscars (which, this year, are presented early next month). No, what I recall is the extent to which this is a made-for-TV event. Those big Oscars near the red carpet are just hollow props, and when you look on the other side of what TV cameras show you, most things appear fake and flimsy. There’s probably a metaphor there for Hollywood itself. Back then it was a low-tech event, too: winners’ names were handwritten on boards in the media room – which was, incidentally, far from the big room chocka with film stars that you see on TV. Still, it was fun, in a silly kind of way. And it was possible (if you ignored the rules) to do some VIP mingling. A distracted Robin Williams almost trod on one of my feet and I did spy Bruce Springsteen taking a smoko.

Some may say the real interest is in the winners; the truth, though, is that there are many more nominees who go home empty-handed. And for those painfully awful few moments while the camera is on them, everyone must try to look as if they don’t care. Some manage this better than others. For exquisite awkwardness it would be hard to top Frank Capra’s embarrassment in 1934 when he mistakenly, if understandably, thought he had won the Best Director award. After all, the announcer, Will Rogers, had said: “Come on up and get it, Frank.” So Frank did, as his family and friends cheered. He pushed past crowded tables, muttering his thanks. He waved so that the guy with the spotlight could see him. And then he saw the real winner: Frank Lloyd. As Lloyd accepted the award (for Cavalcade), Capra endured cries of “Sit down!’” as he slunk back to his seat, feeling – as he said later – “like a miserable worm”. And yet, in some ways, he was lucky. His humiliation was not captured live on TV, as the Oscars ceremony was not televised until 1953. Today, of course, such a faux pas would be up on YouTube within minutes – to be sniggered at indefinitely.

Still, there are worse things than being nominated and not winning an award. Not being nominated at all, to start with. On that front we are right behind one of the most famous female figures in showbiz, Miss Piggy, who –again – has coped with yet another Academy snub with admirable restraint and dignity. True, there are hints of piggy pique in what we believe to be our exclusive interview (p17). A comment such as “The nominees this year are a bunch of unknowns” could be construed as lacking a certain style. But just imagine how, say, Lady Gaga would have reacted to a similar slight. It would certainly not have been ladylike.

As we expect some of Miss P’s quotes to generate worldwide publicity, I should stress here that we cannot guarantee the verisimilitude of our scoop. One insurmountable problem with telephone interviews is that you’re never 100% sure exactly who is on the other end of the line. Then again, if it sounds like a pig, and talks like a pig, well, it probably is…worth publishing. In a last-ditch attempt at fact-checking, we conferred with Miss Piggy’s long-time colleagues in the wonderful world of The Muppets, Messrs Statler and Waldorf. Few things escape these guys from their spot in the balcony. They reviewed our tape and simply responded: “Funny. Fun-ny!” That’s good enough for us.

» Alan Attwood is Editor of The Big Issue.

This article appeared in Ed#451 of The Big Issue magazine.