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Published on May 9, 2016
Film-industry types routinely rented the place for Oscar-watching soirees and wrap parties. And in 1951, a week before the Academy Awards, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin held an Oscar spoof there called the Mickey Awards.
"It was the first time in years anybody dared to laugh at Hollywood out loud," a Herald Examiner reporter wrote in 1951. "One irate press agent said the whole thing was 'anti-industry' and demanded it be called off."
The awards were the brainchild of Ezra Goodman, a Time magazine correspondent who, along with other film-industry reporters, felt that he was treated as a second-class citizen.
Studio producers told Lewis and Martin that they couldn't spoof the Oscars, said Johnny Grant, Hollywood's honorary mayor, in a recent interview.
But the show went on. Searchlights pierced the sky and wide-eyed fans filled the temporary bleachers outside.
Grant, then working as a disc jockey, welcomed stars as they arrived. "The press used to get together and pull off some real doozies," he said.
For the occasion, emcees Lewis and Martin rented the antique automobile -- an Isotta Fraschini -- in which Gloria Swanson was chauffeured by Erich Von Stroheim in "Sunset Boulevard." (The film was up for 11 Oscars that year; it won three.)
Von Stroheim accepted the Mickey for best performance by a foreign convertible. Burlesque legend Tempest Storm won for the "best two props" in a black and white production -- her breasts.
It also attracted the hot rod community according to Jim Miller who hosts the Land Speed Racing website. He writes that the Mickey Awards Show was held at Barney’s Beanery with most of the gang from Petersen Publishing behind the event. The emcee was Johnny Grant, but Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made this their personal show. It’s a wonderful snapshot of a by-gone Hollywood era and shows just how much hot rodding and auto racing was an accepted part of the Hollywood culture. It’s hoped that we can make disks available to the public. David Parks, the youngest son of Wally Parks, states that many of the people helping to put on the presentation were employees of Petersen Publishing Company, including Barbara Livingston, who would become Mrs Wally Parks a decade later. Robert E. “Pete” Petersen had worked in the Hollywood movie industry prior to founding his business empire. Many of the stars knew and appreciated his efforts to protect their privacy from intrusion by the press and public. These stars often turned to Petersen for help in putting on events and Petersen was always willing to help. The Mickey Awards is a prime example of the Hot Rodders penchant for mocking the overly serious in society around them.