The Oscar trophy: touched by the good, the bad and the gruesome

Tonight's 90th Academy Awards ceremony comes in the wake of revelations about serial sex pest Harvey Weinstein and one of the biggest scandals ever to rock Hollywood. But what does Oscar himself think about being groped, stroked and fondeled by some of Tinsel Town's grubbiest paws?

04 March 2018 - 00:33 By SUE DE GROOT

Hoo boy. What a time it's been for Hollywood. I started in this game in 1929 and I have seen a thing or two, I can tell you, but these past 12 months take the gluten-free cheesecake.
One thing I'm relieved about is that there's no chance of that Weinstein fellow putting his hands on me tonight. He's wrapped his sweaty trotters around me more than once, and no matter what people tell you, I swear I did not give consent. It still gives me nightmares.
I've had some other horrible experiences. One of my most uncomfortable moments was when Gwyneth Paltrow cried all over me after they handed me to her in 1999. Have a little respect, woman. I know gold doesn't rust but I'm only plated. Inside I'm made of copper and tin, just like everyone else in Hollywood.I feel things. I know how all those women protesting about sexual harassment feel. Believe me, I know. There are people you want to touch you, there are people you don't mind touching you, and then there are people you wish would just keep their hands to themselves.
A lot of those women who feel the way I do will be wearing black tonight. Like that's going to achieve anything. I don't get to wear a black dress. They have a special outfit designed, but not me. Every year I get carried out on stage, passed from hand to hand and held up high for everyone to see, over and over again. And I am always butt naked. It's a disgrace.
I should be commander-in-chief of the #MeToo brigade, if you ask me. I have been groped, pawed, pinched, stroked, kissed, sucked ... oh yes, there is Oscar porn; I could say more but then Weinstein would know I'd been on his computer while he was out so I'll keep my little gold teeth clenched on that score.
The rest of the abuse happens in public, for all to see, and no one ever does anything about it. There are laws against slavery and trafficking but I have been trafficked and sold into slavery more times than Gwyneth has blown her nose.To add insult to ignominy, it's not only the stars who are allowed to fondle me. A couple of years ago there were queues of ordinary civilians at Grand Central Station waiting to "Take a Snapshot with a Real Oscar Statuette". Oh the horror. When actress Melissa Leo cut the red ribbon to declare this shoddy gimmick open, she said: "I can't wait to see the expressions of people as they touch an Oscar for the first time."
If I could make an expression, it would not be pretty.
This treating me like a piece of merchandise is not supposed to happen. In 1950 the Academy tried to put the brakes on illegal trade by inserting a clause in its contracts stipulating that no winner could sell an Oscar without first offering it back to the Academy for the price of $1. But Hollywood has always been good at breaking the rules.
Oscars awarded before the rule came in can still be sold, although it causes ructions. In 1999 Michael Jackson, who at least had the grace to wear gloves when he handled me, bought me from Sotheby's for $1.54-million (R18-million).
That version of me was won by David O Selznick for producing Gone With the Wind in 1939. Weirdly enough, I disappeared. Jackson's executors and heirs are still looking for me. I could tell you where I am, but that would spoil the fun. Let them think I have gone with the wind.
Quite a few people have lost me over the years, which is really quite annoying. Marlon Brando, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Angelina Jolie are just a few who should have taken better care of me. I'd like to say I walked out on them, but since my legs are stuck together that is, sadly, not possible. Either someone took me or I'm buried under a pile of whatever rubbish they've accumulated in one of their houses. I'm not telling.
Some people take me seriously, and for that I am grateful. Steven Spielberg has rescued me twice. In 1996 he paid $578,000 for the me won by Bette Davis for Jezebel in 1939, as well as $607,500 for the me given to Clark Gable for It Happened One Night. Spielberg gave both of me back to the Academy. That man has too much money, but at least he uses it wisely.
In 1942 I was given to Orson Welles when he won best original screenplay for Citizen Kane. He held me quite gently. I think Orson would have turned in his enormous grave if he'd known that in 2011 his daughter Beatrice would sell me on auction. I fetched $861 542. Not a bad price considering, but still, it's humiliating.As is not being allowed to wear clothes. I was designed in the 1920s by an art director called Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by an artist called George Stanley. Gibbons mixed his metaphors and decided to make me look like a medieval crusader who had time-travelled into the Art Deco period. He even gave me a long knight's sword.
 There has been more than one occasion on which I've wished I could do some damage with that sword, but it's stuck firmly to my body. At least it provides a small measure of modesty.
The first person who got one of me was a German actor called Emil Jannings. Funny thing is, another actor, called Rin Tin Tin, also a German but of the Shepherd variety, got more votes that year. Movies were still silent in 1929, so the playing field between dogs and humans was pretty level.
All this talk about inequality and injustice and no one has bothered to make reparations to the surviving members of the Tin family. It's well known that Louis B Mayer, head of MGM studios and a man with a lot of clout, decided to rig the awards - insisting on a second round of voting for only humans - because giving the first Academy Award to a dog might be problematic.In the early days I was made of solid bronze with a gold skin and weighed a bit more than I do now. The dog might have dropped me on some important person's foot and the insurance claim would have been monstrous.
Jannings went on to fight for the Nazis against the Allies. It is said that he would carry me into battle as a good-luck charm. He survived, so maybe it worked, but his change of career did not reflect well on the Academy.
You'd think that might have taught them to be a bit more discerning, but they never learn.
Back then I didn't even have a name; that's how shabbily they treated me. Only in 1939 was I officially christened, although people started calling me Oscar from about 1934. There is still much argument about who picked my name.
Bette Davis liked to say she named me after her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson, but most people believe the version that Margaret Herrick, at the time a librarian with the Academy, decided I looked just like her Uncle Oscar. Let's not go into why or when she might have seen Uncle Oscar naked with a sword.
I would have liked some choice in the matter, I must say. Maybe I could apply to have my name changed. I have grown less fond of it since that incident in the country that Charlize Theron and the makers of Tsotsi come from.
Before, if anyone said "Oscar", everyone knew they were talking about me. Now they have to add a surname to specify which Oscar they mean. And I don't have a surname. But I didn't mind Charlize touching me on stage in 2004. She was nice about it.
There have been many times when I've wished my arms were not attached to my sides - not only so I could give the likes of Weinstein a good poke in the nostril; mostly so I could put my hands over my eyes in shame.Last year Warren Beatty read from the wrong envelope and I had to be wrestled out of the hands of the non-winner and given to someone else without even so much as a pause to wipe off the offending fingerprints. But that was far from the worst travesty.
There are people who should have clasped me tenderly but were never given the chance, like Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant.
Don't even get me started on the historical race and gender bias: I have hands-on experience of that. And then there are those, too many to mention, who clutched me in their undeserving paws and made me feel so dirty and used that it took years of polishing to erase the trauma.
I've had enough, I tell you. One of these days I'm going to rebel and refuse to go on stage. I could send some of the cast members from Minions up in my place, I suppose - take their clothes off and no one would know the difference - but that would defeat the object. I need them to know that I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. I demand respect. I demand a black dress.
Maybe tonight I will finally be able to wrench my gold-plated arm free from my tin-cored body and raise my sword in the air as I shout: "Time's up!"

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.