With a lot more bad movies than good ones available on any Saturday night, many paying customers may wonder why Hollywood ever gives itself credit. If you’re among the disenchanted, forget next Monday’s Oscars and check out the results of the untelevised Golden Raspberry Awards on March 24. Bo Derek, Burt Reynolds, Brooke Shields and Sylvester Stallone are just a few of the nominees with their heads on the block at the fifth annual show. The Razzie, as the award is affectionately called, is a gilded raspberry atop a mangled film can and is given for the year’s worst achievements in film. Nominees for Worst Film of 1984 are: Bolero, Rhinestone, Sheena, Cannonball Run II and Where the Boys Are.
The Razzies are the brainchild of John Wilson, 30, a free-lance movie trailer writer who caught a 1980 double bill of two flop musicals, Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu and thought, “Someone should do awards for this type of movie.” Says Wilson, “We’re not saying, ‘How dare you do movies like this.’ We’re saying, ‘We can’t believe you did!’ I go out of my way to stress the humor. The Razzies are not a slap in the face, they’re a banana peel on the floor.”
The nominees, understandably, don’t share that view. Faye Dunaway, according to a London columnist, “flew into a litigious rage” after winning the Worst Actress Razzie in 1981 for her Joan Crawford impersonation in Mommie Dearest. “This is not an industry famous for having a sense of humor about itself,” says Wilson, who points out that no nominee has ever attended the awards ceremony. So Wilson uses mostly stars from Ron Smith’s celebrity look-alike factory. Last year Sybil Danning, twice nominated for her role as a lesbian convict in Chained Heat and as Lou Ferrigno’s butch nemesis in Hercules, threatened to attend. “But she was making another cheesy movie [Jungle Warriors] and had to cancel at the last minute,” says Wilson unhappily.
The first Razzie ceremony, a primitive affair, took place in Wilson’s rundown apartment in a seedy section of Hollywood. The estimated budget was $45 with a voting audience of 35 connoisseurs of the contemptible. For the next two years the cognoscenti gathered at the spacious Bel Air home of a TV producer who has asked to remain anonymous. “You never know when you may be working with a past Razzie. Voting membership in the group has reached 150 film professionals and students (dues are $10 for the first year, $7.50 thereafter).
As the self-proclaimed Head Raspberry, Wilson (a 1977 graduate of UCLA’s film school) writes much of the quarterly Razzie newsletter, which urges members to attend screenings. His come-ons sound like wacky parodies of the movie trailer copy he writes for a living: “See the most unerotic sex scene of 1984 [Bo Derek in Bolero], hear the worst male vocalist of the ’80s [Sly Stallone singing in Rhinestone] and, in the same movie, don’t miss the udderly delightful Dolly Parton.” Brooke Shields gets damned for impersonating a male in Sahara with “a voice even deeper than Donny Osmond’s and with a similar chest.”
Such cruel jests rarely raise a twinge of regret in Wilson, who is clearly becoming to movie criticism what Mr. Blackwell is to fashion. Wilson does recall one embarrassing field trip last year to the Westwood premiere of The Lonely Lady, starring Razzie favorite Pia Zadora (there’s a regular column in the newsletter called Pia Watch). The Razzie voters “giggled, booed and hissed throughout,” recalls Wilson, who did not know that Zadora was in the audience. One member felt so bad he went up to her and lied that he had enjoyed the picture. “It couldn’t have been much consolation,” Wilson laughs, because the man was wearing a T-shirt that read: “Pia Zadora is A) Beautiful, B) Talented, C) Self-Supporting, D) None of the Above.”
Zadora, like Brooke Shields, Linda Blair and Bo Derek, is a Razzie perennial. Her Lonely Lady received 11 nominations (the Razzies have only 10 categories) and swept the ceremonies last year, winning six awards. This week Wilson predicts a similar sweep for Bo’s Bolero.
Wilson believes his Razzie committee is “much better at picking the worst than the Academy is at picking the so-called best.” Of this year’s Oscar nominees, Wilson opines, “They really stink. If they had to nominate a dead British actor, why didn’t they pick Richard Burton for 1984 instead of Ralph Richardson for Greystoke? At least Burton did a better job of pulling teeth than Richardson did riding an hors d’oeuvre tray down a flight of stairs.” That kind of wicked wit is likely to keep Oscar and Razzie a longtime don’t-invite-’em pair. It may also lose-Razzie its underground status, since it’s hard to keep such cheeky irreverence down. Still, there’s no chance the underattended Razzies will ever attract an audience of Oscar size. But does anyone want to vote on which show will be more fun?