This column originally ran August 27, 2000: The Answer Man has a special folder for The Questions That Will Not Die. These questions are like urban legends. While the general population faithfully repeats the story about the blind date who stole the kidney, the AM is asked yet once again if there is not a ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." This column is dedicated to answering Questions That Will Not Die and no others. Clip and save. Please.
Q. I heard Rex Reed say on a talk show that Marisa Tomei didn't really win the Oscar -- that Jack Palance got confused and read her name instead of Vanessa Redgrave's. Is this true?
Greg Nelson, Chicago
A. When Joseph Gonzales of Waco, Texas, asked this question, the AM replied: "The accountants for Price Waterhouse, who have memorized the name of every winner, are poised backstage ready to race out and make an on-the-spot correction should anyone mistakenly (or deliberately!) announce the wrong winner -- which would be hard to do, since the presenter is reading from a card that has only one name written on it."
But that was not good enough for Chicago's James Berg, who wrote: "Reed explained that a 'stoned' or 'drunk' Palance read the last name on the TelePrompTer and did not properly open the envelope."
So the AM turned to Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy, who issued an official statement: "The legend of Marisa Tomei's 'mistaken Oscar' has appeared in various forms over the years and in that short time has achieved the status of urban myth. There is no more truth to this version than to any of the others we've heard. If such a scenario were ever to occur, the Price Waterhouse people backstage would simply step out onstage and point out the error. They are not shy."
Not only is the rumor untrue, it is unfair to Marisa Tomei, and Rex Reed owes her an apology.