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Top 10 Bizarre Award Show Moments

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Award shows are all about glitz, glam, and stars congratulating one another on a job well done. With fewer people tuning in these days, what keeps the rest of the crowd watching? How do these shows still get attention?

Well, one thing has remained the same. Throughout the years, these shows have garnered quite the reputation as bizarre, outrageous, and even enraging moments marred them. The result? Nowadays, many people tune in only to see if anything crazy will happen.

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10 Oscar Winner Needs Permission To Attend Ceremony

Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress: 12th Oscars (1940)

Born in 1893, Hattie McDaniel became a famous actress, comedian, and singer-songwriter. She auditioned for the role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind wearing an authentic maid’s uniform, which has been credited as a major factor in her winning the part. McDaniel’s portrayal of Mammy earned her a well-deserved Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Despite having won this prestigious award for her terrific performance, McDaniel was not allowed to attend the premiere of the film in Atlanta because it took place in a whites-only theater. At first, she was not even allowed to go to the Oscars ceremony as it was a whites-only show. But she was finally permitted to attend after the producer of the movie called in a favor. However, she was segregated at a side table.[1]

Even after she died, her final wish—to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery—was denied as the cemetery only allowed burials for white people.

9 Soy Bomb, Soy Bomb, I’m A Soy Bomb

During the Grammy Awards show in 1998, Bob Dylan took to the stage to perform “Love Sick.” During the song, performance artist Michael Portnoy decided it was time to make an unscheduled appearance.

Portnoy jumped onstage. He was shirtless and had the words “Soy Bomb” painted on his chest. He came to a stop next to Dylan and started doing a weird version of the “robot.”[2]

Portnoy enjoyed 35 seconds of fame before he was unceremoniously removed by security. When interviewed afterward, Portnoy said he painted “Soy Bomb” on his chest because “soy . . . represents dense nutritional life” and he wanted his art to represent “dense, transformational, explosive life.”

He was originally meant to be an extra in the background during Dylan’s performance. Instead, he decided to “assert [himself] on national TV.”

8 Tarantino Doesn’t Need Anyone

Quentin Tarantino Wins Best Screenplay – 2020 Golden Globes

Quentin Tarantino has long been a controversial filmmaker. He’s been accused of being racist, insensitive to victims of gun violence, and indirectly causing Uma Thurman’s car accident on the set of Kill Bill. Admitting to knowing about several Harvey Weinstein accusations, Tarantino said, “What I did was marginalize the incidents. [ . . . ] I knew enough to do more than I did.”[3]

All of this has made him very unpopular, and his speech at the 2020 Golden Globes ceremony didn’t help matters at all. During his speech, he mentioned screenwriter Robert Bolt and writer-director John Milius.

But then Tarantino went on to say that he didn’t really have to thank anyone because he wrote the script for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood all by himself. After narcissistically rambling on in the same vein, he eventually got around to acknowledging the stars of the film and his wife.

7 Rob Lowe Sings With Snow White

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Rob Lowe is well known for playing Billy Hicks in St. Elmo’s Fire and, more recently, for acting in shows such as Brothers & Sisters as well as 9-1-1: Lone Star.

What some may not know, however, is that the star can also sing. He proved this during the truly bizarre opening number that formed part of the 1989 Oscars ceremony. Lowe performed a parody version of “Proud Mary” with Eileen Bowman, who was dressed up as Snow White.

The performance continued for a cringeworthy 11 minutes and must be viewed in its entirety to fully “appreciate” the insanity. Years later, Lowe was able to make fun of the performance. But at the time, he had to grin and bear the incredulous expressions he saw in the audience while singing.[4]

6 Michael Jackson Accepts Made-Up Award

Michael Jackson, Artist Of The Millennium Award 2.002, Presented by Britney Spears

During the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, Michael Jackson got things a bit muddled up. He watched Britney Spears dancing to “Billie Jean,” saw a massive cake and a glittery golden trophy, and was understandably dazed. After all, it was his birthday. When he was called up to the stage and wished a “happy birthday” by Spears, he heard her call him the “artist of the millennium.”[5]

He held on tight to the trophy handed to him and proceeded to thank a host of people (including David Blaine) for the honor of receiving the “Artist of the Millennium” award. The only problem? Such an award didn’t exist.

MJ had been called up to the stage so that the audience (and MTV) could wish him a happy birthday. And that was it. Nevertheless, he rocked his “acceptance speech” as only he could. At the end of it, the crowd went wild anyway.

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5 Fame ‘Kills’ Lady Gaga

During the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga was years away from singing with Tony Bennett or showing off her vocal chops in movies. However, she was one year into being a massive pop star and fed up with how the media was treating stars in general.

It was also only one year after Britney Spears had suffered a severe mental breakdown and been placed on an involuntary 72-hour hold at Cedars-Sinai. Gaga was outraged at how the media was mocking Britney and others, including Lindsay Lohan, by showcasing their downfalls to the world as a form of entertainment.[6]

Therefore, Gaga decided to make her VMA performance one to remember. She performed “Paparazzi” and shocked viewers worldwide by “faking her own death” onstage. She was strung up by her dancers and then hung “lifeless” from a rope while covered in “blood.” She also dramatically stated, “Amidst all of these flashing lights, I pray the fame won’t take my life.”

In the background, the sound of camera shutters filled the sudden silence. It was definitely a bizarre moment, but looking back, a much needed one. Some even termed it “a wake-up call” for pop culture.

4 Pedestal Stunt Gone Wrong

Sofia Vergara Gets Put on a Pedestal at Emmys 2014

During the 2014 Emmy Awards, Sofia Vergara was asked to get on an actual pedestal. While the pedestal spun the star around slowly, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum gave a speech that unleashed a storm of controversy.

While Vergara made the most of the moment and struck funny poses on the pedestal, Rosenblum implied that the success of TV was “based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch.”[7]

Viewers blasted the stunt as “incredibly sexist” and called Vergara’s objectification extremely crude considering that a Latina actress had only been awarded twice earlier at that point. Vergara tried to calm the situation by claiming that she didn’t find the scenario offensive at all and that the person who started the Twitter firestorm should lighten up a bit.

3 Ain’t That A Kick In The Head

Krist Novoselic Accident Bass

The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards were highly anticipated because the members of Nirvana were slated to appear as both nominees and performers. The group won two awards, Best Alternative Video and Best New Artist in a Video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Their musical performance wasn’t as successful, though. Beforehand, the band had arranged (compromised) with the MTV executives that Nirvana would perform “Lithium” instead of “Rape Me.” When they took the stage, Kurt Cobain started singing “Rape Me,” which sent the execs into a frenzy.

While they debated cutting to a commercial, Cobain segued into “Lithium.” Everything went well right up until the end of the song when bassist Krist Novoselic tossed his bass guitar into the air (he had done so several times before) and misjudged its landing. The guitar hit Novoselic in the head and knocked him to the stage.[8]

Fortunately, he was only a little dazed and not seriously injured.

2 The Song No One Wanted To Hear

Seth Macfarlane “We Saw Your Boobs” Electrifying Opening @ Oscar Awards 2013

Sometimes, you have to wonder how celebrities come up with skit ideas for award shows. Some are truly awe-inspiring, but others are so cringeworthy that you end up with your head in your hands.

For some reason, Seth MacFarlane thought it would be a good idea to sing a song called “We Saw Your Boobs” while hosting the 2013 Oscars ceremony. He did this while pointing out actresses who had appeared topless on-screen. These actresses had filmed nude scenes in movies such as Monster’s Ball, The Accused, Monster, and Brokeback Mountain.[9]

Afterward, it was revealed that the actresses who were pointed out—and who all wore mortified expressions—were “in on the joke.” This didn’t stop enraged viewers from fuming on Twitter and calling MacFarlane a “misogynistic pig.” They also pointed out that he had used four examples from rape scenes.

MacFarlane was invited to host again the following year but declined due to scheduling conflicts.

1 Musical Exorcism

Nicki Minaj – Grammys 2012 Performance

Sometimes, the need to provide shock value completely overshadows an entire awards ceremony. This is what happened when Nicki Minaj took to the stage at the Grammy Awards in 2012.

She had a “priest” accompany her while “confessing” the lyrics of her new song “Roman Holiday.” Then the scene cut away to a prerecorded video of the “priest” arriving at a house to perform an exorcism on Minaj. She was shown putting on lipstick and crawling up a wall while hissing at the “priest” after he entered her room.[10]

Finally, the Grammy performance continued live and included multiple fires, levitation, and speaking in tongues. Minaj underwent a fake exorcism onstage, and her backup dancers sang a dark version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” at one point.

Twitter was not impressed by the spectacle. Some called it a “hot mess,” and others exclaimed that they were embarrassed for Minaj. Perhaps the least impressed of all was the Catholic League. They felt the performance was an attack on their faith.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.