I . . . well, I never DREAMED . . . I'd like to take a moment to thank the Academy for this wonderful award. I'm sorry. I said I wouldn't cry, but . . . Special thanks also to my producer Art Silverman and my agent Miriam LaRue and to my mom and dad and my fourth grade home ec teacher, Mrs. Mancini.
That reminds me of a story, which may or may not be apocryphal, about the struggling actor -- and boy, can I relate to this one -- who . . .
Tell me something: What is it with these Oscar winners and their acceptance speeches?
When exactly did copping this award become a license to drone on and on in front of 70 million TV viewers?
And is it really necessary for the winners to bound onto the stage at LA's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and thank every single person they came in contact with from the age of 7 on up?
Clearly, the answer is no. Oscar winners, do us all a big favor. Wave the trophy a couple of times. Thank the nice people in the Academy. Then sit down.
Spare us the halting, aching introspection. Spare us the politically correct speeches about saving the whales and the Amazon rain forest and the Gypsies. Spare us the numbing harangues on sexism, racism, ageism and why we're all going to hell in a handbasket.
Just wave the Oscar, say thank you, and sit down.
If everyone were to do that, we could wrap up the 64th Academy Awards ceremony in about 45 minutes -- providing they ease up on those sappy production numbers where, say, a super-talent like Rob Lowe and 200 dancers dressed in cellophane combine for a Special Tribute to Irving Berlin.
If ABC really wants to add a little pizazz to Monday's broadcast, here's some advice: Focus on the losers.
As it stands now, just before each big award is announced, the network goes to a split-screen look at the nominees sitting in the audience in varying degrees of nail-biting anticipation.
But as soon as the winner's name is called, the cameras zoom in exclusively on him or her air-kissing spouses and hugging friends and squeezing through the aisle to get to the stage.
Listen, ABC, forget the winner, OK?! We'll catch the winner later. Stay with those losers. Get that camera right in on their faces. This is where the action is!
The tight smiles, the florid faces filled with disappointment, the labored breathing, the insincere mouthing of "congratulations" to the winners . . . I want to see all of it.
I want to see Jack Palance snarl and rip his seat from its hinges if he doesn't win Best Supporting Actor for "City Slickers."
After she's passed over for Best Actress, I want to see Bette Midler lean over and belt her business manager for getting her involved in that awful "For the Boys."
Now that's entertainment, not those saccharine-fueled acceptance speeches where some young actress in a clingy gown slit up to here speaks movingly about her childhood friend in Yonkers "always being there for me."
Speaking of what we don't want to see, here's a partial list: the award for Best Set Design, Best Stagehand, Best Make-up Person (Mascara and Base) . . . maybe you're catching my drift here.
Look, nobody cares about all those technical categories.
In fact, when you get down to it, all most people care about is the winner of Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress.
Then they care about getting to bed. Because it's always well after midnight by the time this extravaganza draws to a close and we can begin to erase the disturbing memory of Charo and 110 dancers dressed as Desert Storm service people in a Special Salute to Bob Hope.
In any event, here are one man's predictions for the Big Three awards Monday night:
Best Picture: "Silence of the Lambs." After seeing this film, I couldn't sleep without the lights on for two weeks. Even now I have to check all the doors and windows 27 times before I go to bed.
"Bugsy" was great, too, although Warren Beatty still occupies the same niche as an actor as, oh, Danny Aiello.
"Beauty and the Beast?" Give me a break. What'll they nominate next -- a RoadRunner cartoon? Or something starring Yosemite Sam?
Best Actor: Nick Nolte for "The Prince of Tides." Look, the big lug can act. He was great as a weepy, troubled Sensitive Man -- if you like that sort of role. And People magazine named him The Sexiest Man Alive. That has to count for something.
Best Actress: Jodie Foster for "Silence of the Lambs."
Come to think of it, I better check the doors and windows again.