By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 09, 1998 12:00 AM
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He’s been compared to TV garbageman Fred Sanford of “Sanford and Son,” but Willie Fulgear is having the last laugh. Fulgear, 61, a junk man who found 52 stolen Oscar statuettes in an L.A. dumpster last weekend (three Oscars are still at large), will be sitting in the Shrine Auditorium audience on Sunday night, after all. On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially extended Fulgear an invitation to this weekend’s big show. He’s also $50,000 richer, having collected the reward posted by Roadway Express, the shipping company from whom the Oscars had been stolen. “If anybody says honesty don’t pay, send them to me,” Fulgear declared to reporters outside LAPD headquarters. “I’m a poor man and I stumbled across, I guess, gold. And I gave it back.” Fulgear plans to use his reward as a down payment on a house for his son Allen, 22. He also said he would like book and movie deals for his story — and for his sudden celebrity to help him find Allen’s mother. She and Fulgear have been estranged since 1983.

  • Another unexpected guest at the Oscars will be Tyrene Manson, 30, who is being temporarily released from New York’s Bayview Correctional Facility halfway house just so she can attend Sunday night’s festivities. The boxer, who is serving time for a drug conviction, appears in the nominated documentary “On the Ropes.” An unnamed benefactor is providing her black gown and shoes, says PEOPLE.