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Call it the curse of Hilhaven Lodge.
Brett Ratner, who resigned Tuesday as producer of the 84th Academy Awards, is now officially the most controversial Oscar show producer since Allan Carr, who produced the roundly panned 61st Academy Awards in 1989 – though at least Carr managed to actually produce a show before Hollywood banished him for his lapses in taste.
Beyond that, though, the two men share another odd connection: Ratner now lives in in Benedict Canyon in Hilhaven Lodge, the very home that Carr once owned and where Carr entertained Hollywood by throwing extravagant, anything-goes parties until Hollywood turned against him.
When Ratner, along with Don Mischer, was named producer of the upcoming Oscar show back in August, he was reminded of the Carr connection, and replied, “I’d like to think [Allan’s] up there, having so much fun, talking about how Brett Ratner’s going to produce the Oscars.”
But if Carr is laughing, it’s probably a bitter laugh. Carr, who rose to prominence as the producer of the hit Grease and the bomb Can’t Stop the Music, drew fire from the Hollywood establishment because the show he produced indulged in a lot of cringe-worthy production numbers – most notoriously the extended opening routine in which Rob Lowe serenaded a Snow White-lookalike to the tune of “Proud Mary” – but what really infuriated the old guard was that Carr, who was flamboyantly gay at a time when few in the industry were even out, had, in their opinion, hijacked the show and turned it into a campy extravaganza that cheapened the Oscars by thumbing its nose at straight America.
Carr, like Ratner, was something out of brash outsider, eager to impress his Hollywood betters. But when they turned against him, he retreated to Hillhaven Lodge and turned down the lights. Hurt by the reactions he encountered, he played out his days as a virtual recluse until his death in 1999.
How times change.
While Carr was stigmatized for being gay, Ratner, a raging heterosexual, ran into a buzzsaw of controversy for a juvenile remark in which he casually tossed off the word “fag” before then compounding his boorishness by going on Howard Stern’s radio show and talking crudely about women.
That kind of frat boy act doesn’t fly anymore in Hollywood, particularly when you’ve been entrusted with a show that not only must uphold more than 80 years of tradition but also reach out to nearly 40 million viewers, with women and gays making up large segments of that audience.
Ratner, who was just as eager to win Hollywood’s approval as Carr once was, wanted to shake up the Academy Awards. He has now lost that opportunity.
And if he retreats tonight to Hilhaven Lodge, he also may realize he and Carr now have more in common than he ever imaged.