Oops! Most Embarrassing Emmys Moments
by Kim Potts, posted Aug 26th 2010 6:30PM
Innuendo-filled speeches, missing glasses, boycotts and the ever-popular wardrobe malfunction ... all have contributed to this collection of 20 of the most embarrassing, weird and awkward moments in Emmy Awards history, including a pair that happened off-camera. Peruse our list and let us know what kooky Emmy moment you remember the most ...
Stage Wrong (1953)
Hosting the Emmys telecast is a prestigious gig now, but back in the ceremony's early days, top performers would often turn it down, especially if they were miffed that they weren't nominated for an award themselves. For the 1954 ceremony, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin had turned down an invitation to host the show, but congenial TV star Art Linkletter took the job, despite the fact that when he hosted in 1953, scenery fell down, a mic went dead for 10 minutes and crew had trouble with a faulty curtain. Linkletter's reasoning for returning to host: "Nothing worse can happen."
Mel's Meltdown (1958)
It's pretty tough to imagine that a writing staff that included Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon would lose a writing award, but that was the case this year, when the writing crew of 'Caesar's Hour,' with those aforementioned writers, lost out for the best comedy writing Emmy to the staff of 'The Phil Silvers Show.' And Brooks was apparently incredulous about the loss himself. In his 2004 autobiography 'Caesar's Hours,' Cid Caesar wrote, "Mel leapt onto his table and screamed, 'Coleman Jacoby and Arnie Rosen ('Silvers Show' writers) won an Emmy and Mel Brooks didn't! That bullsh** writers can win the award and geniuses like us would be denied! Nietzsche was right! There is no God! There is no God!' It was pure Mel. He really did know how to punch up a scene."
Is It Windy in Here? (1961)
Oscar-nominated actress and 'The Barbara Stanwyck Show' star Barbara Stanwyck was so excited to win her first Emmy (for best actress in a series -- there were no separate awards for comedy and drama actress yet) that, when she heard her name called as the winner, she jumped out of her chair and headed towards the stage, without noticing that her evening gown had gotten caught on the arm of her chair. Yep, the dress tore, but an Emmy is an Emmy ... she threw on her coat and went forward to collect her prize.
Where's Oscar? (1964)
The 1964 Emmy ceremony was marked by a boycott by CBS and ABC, whose news division heads felt that the Emmy voting process was unfair. Many big names sat the ceremony out then, and those that did show up were in the mood to poke fun at the boycotters. The hoopla of the boycott made for a confusing ceremony and some flustered celebs, like Shelley Winters. She said a gracious "thank you" when she won the lead actress award for a single performance on 'Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre.' Unfortunately, in all the confusion, she thanked "the whole motion picture academy" for her Emmy.
Say Anything (1970)
Patty Duke's acceptance speech was so rambling when she won the lead actress award for a single performance award for the TV movie 'My Sweet Charlie' that the Los Angeles Times would later write that it was "still in the code room being deciphered," while Broadcasting magazine described her "vacant and glassy-eyed stare." The actress, who later blamed the episode on a severe battle with manic-depression, wrote in her 1987 autobiography 'Call Me Anna' that "Accepting the Emmy I won turned into a nationally televised nightmare."
Super Stupid (1974)
It was the year of the Super Emmy! And it was a flop. The idea was to drum up more excitement for the audience, but the "Super Emmy" did just the opposite. The NATAS (National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences) said that, because there were so many acting categories at the Emmys -- the comedy, the drama, the TV movies and specials awards -- they should award one "Actor of the Year" and "Actress of the Year" Emmy, with the nominees for those awards being the winners of the best comedy actor Emmy, best drama actor Emmy, etc. The problem: there were several, beginning with the fact that hundreds of actors and other academy members were so opposed to the idea that they threatened to quit the academy. After finally agreeing to give it a try, the actors and actresses were sorry by the time Emmy night rolled around ... to save time for the "Super" awards, the academy decided to announce the winners of the best actor in a comedy, drama and other main categories ahead of the telecast, removing any real suspense for the audience or nominees. Again, the idea flopped, and Alan Alda and Mary Tyler Moore remain the only stars to win the "Super Emmy" for TV series work.
For Mature Presenters Only (1975)
Groucho Marx, 95, and Lucille Ball, 64, took the Emmy stage to present the statue for best comedy series. The problem? Groucho was frail, requiring help to get to the podium, and Lucy had forgotten her glasses. "I'm really in trouble," she joked. The crowd nervously laughed, while Milton Berle (no kid himself, at age 67) made his way to the stage and offered his help in announcing that 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' had won its first best comedy Emmy.
Flash Flap (1975)
Cloris Leachman gave viewers a show when she went to the Emmy podium to accept her award for best continuing or single performance by a supporting actress in variety or music for an appearance on the 'Cher' show. While stepping up with supporting actor winner Jack Albertson, Leachman clutched her shirt and said, "I'm still trying to get my dress snapped." Too late, though ... she'd already shown her bra, thanks to the flapping shirt.
You Haven't Got Mail (1976)
It was a major Emmy botch, but it happened before the televised ceremony ever began. A whole list of potential nominees, including 'All in the Family' stars Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton, weren't announced as official nominees, because their ballots didn't make it to the Emmy offices on time. Turns out they were stuck in a mailbox bin -- in producer Norman Lear's production office -- and weren't discovered and delivered to the TV academy's offices until six weeks after the nomination deadline had passed. P.S. -- Don't feel too bad for O'Connor; he went on to win the best actor in a comedy Emmy for the next three years.
Crossing the Line (1980)
Despite the fact that Screen Actors Guild members were on strike and boycotting the Emmys, the show went on, but with Dick Clark, Steve Allen, Tommy and Dick Smothers and network execs doling out the awards, and also accepting them on behalf of the no-show winners. So everyone was surprised when ABC exec Brandon Stoddard announced the winner of the lead actor in a limited series or special Emmy -- Powers Boothe, for the memorable TV flick 'Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones' -- and Boothe sauntered onto the stage to collect his statue. Said the actor, "This is either the most courageous moment of my career or the stupidest."
And the Award Goes to ... Who? (1985)
Remember the famous Oscar streaker from 1974? Barry Breman is the Emmy version. Though he, thankfully, kept his clothes on, Breman did crash the '85 ceremony. After 'Mission: Impossible' star Peter Graves announced 'Hill Street Blues' star Betty Thomas as the winner of the supporting actress in a drama series Emmy winner, a tuxedo-wearing guy, Breman, went to the podium and said he was accepting on Thomas' behalf. After a commercial break, Thomas went on stage and accepted the Emmy herself, and Breman, who'd been known to impersonate professional athletes in the past (and called himself "The Great Imposter"), was arrested for grand theft of the statue.
Let's Talk About Sex (1991)
'Cheers' star Kirstie Alley kicked off a naughty night when she accepted the Emmy for best comedy actress and thanked her then-husband Parker Stevenson as "the man who has given me the big one for the last eight years." The rattled host, Jerry Seinfeld, followed her speech and cheekily replied, "The big one? That could be anything!" Next up, Burt Reynolds accepted his best comedy actor Emmy for 'Evening Shade' by thanking then-wife Loni Anderson for giving him "two big ones," presumably referring to her famously large chest. But even that wasn't the end of the innuendo, as later comedian Gilbert Gottfried tries to get in on the act, making (unfunny) jokes about Paul Reubens' arrest in a Florida porn theater and several other comments about masturbation, none of which were as funny as anything in the famous 'Seinfeld' episode 'The Contest,' which used euphemisms to address the topic (and which won Larry David a writing Emmy in 1993).
Hairy Situation (1999)
Sure, she was probably tired of seeing all the copycatted versions of her famous "Rachel shag" hairdo, but Jennifer Aniston's fake dreadlocks at the '99 ceremony were not only a mismatch with her Randolph Duke gown, but, as one of the all-time worst Emmy hairstyles, were just plain -- yes, gotta say it -- dreadful.
Mouth to Mouth (2003)The kiss. Er, kisses. In homage to, or rather spoofing of, Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears' awkward kisses at the MTV Video Music Awards, Emmy presenters decided to get in on the fun, and awkwardness, with some strange busses of their own. First up, co-hosts Garry Shandling and Brad Garrett went into a full-on liplock, followed by Shandling telling the audience, "I just want to say to CBS, he's worth every nickel" about the 'Everybody Loves Raymond' star. Garrett wasn't the only 'Raymond' star with kissing on the brain, though: When his TV mom, Doris Roberts, took the stage to accept her best supporting actress comedy Emmy from presenter Matthew Perry, she got more than a statue. Perry planted one on the Hollywood veteran, who responded, "That was worth getting up here for."
Bosom Buddy (2005)
Let this be a lesson to Emmy-going ladies to not only carry a purse, but to have it with them at all times. That advice might have saved 'Law & Order' star S. Epatha Merkerson some embarrassment when she went on stage to accept her lead actress in a miniseries or movie Emmy for 'Lackawanna Blues.' Instead, she had stored her notes for an acceptance speech in her cleavage, and while making her way to the stage, they dropped down further into her dress. "Oh God ... it's down there," she said, and bravely (and probably quite uncomfortably) soldiered on and tried to remember all the people she wanted to thank, sans notes.
Can He Be Fired? (2005)
Donald Trump, in overalls and straw hat, pitchfork in hands, singing the theme song from 'Green Acres.'
Bleep Bleep! (2006)
Helen Mirren gave a memorable acceptance speech urging more well-written parts for actresses when she accepted her lead actress in a miniseries or movie Emmy for HBO's 'Elizabeth I.' Or rather, it would have been something people remembered, if she hadn't already stolen her own thunder when she climbed up onto the stage and opened her remarks by telling the audience (uncensored by the show), "My great triumph is not falling a*s over t*t as I came up those stairs."
What a Loser (2007)
Awk-ward! Only word to describe Katherine Heigl's admission, during her acceptance speech for the best supporting actress Emmy for 'Grey's Anatomy,' that "My own mother told me I didn't have a shot in hell of winning tonight." Cut to: said (embarrassed) mom in the audience.
Drop-Off Service (2008)
During a skit with her Emmy co-host Tom Bergeron, model and 'Project Runway' star Heidi Klum pretended to swoon and fall, and Bergeron was caught her. Then, in what was supposed to represent comedy, he dropped her, hard, onto the stage, and she ended the night with a big ol' bruise on her hip.
Real Embarrassing (2008)
In fact, Klum's whole stint as co-host of the Emmys turned into a bit of a disaster, as she and four other reality TV hosts -- Bergeron, Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel and Jeff Probst -- shared hosting duties in what made for an awkward, unfunny, embarrassingly awful Emmy telecast, one that most critics cited as the worst Emmy telecast in recent history. Defamer even compiled a handy two-minute clip of the show's most awkward bits.