Picks and Pans Review: The Envelope, Please

updated 03/29/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/29/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

>IF YOU THINK IT'S HARD STAYING up till the end of the Academy Awards, think of Gilbert Gates, the producer of the extravaganza (9 p.m. ET, ABC, March 29) since 1990. Cates knows it's hard. In 1991, just before Madonna did a big Dick Tracy production number, one of Cates's crew members fell asleep under the stage and was unable to flip a switch that made a microphone rise from the floor. What the superstar said when told at the last minute that she would have to use a common hand-held mike, is, says Cates, "between her, the stage manager and God."

Cates—the dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and uncle of actress Phoebe—is always the diplomat. He routinely cheeks the seating chart to make sure squabbling celebs are not in one another's proximity and placates stars who balk at presenting awards in categories they deem beneath them.

Cates's most delicate negotiation this year was persuading Billy Crystal to return as Oscar host. "He has the same anxiety I do," says Cates. "He did a good show last year, so why come back and screw it up?" Cates didn't clinch the deal with Crystal until he sent the comic a stuffed horse's head that looked like the steed Crystal rode in City Slickers, then subsequently bought. "All right, I'll do it," Crystal finally said, adding, "You sonofabitch. For a second, I thought you killed my horse."

One highlight of this year's ceremony will be the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which will be given to Liz Taylor and posthumously to Audrey Hepburn. The presenter for Hepburn? Gregory Peck, her costar in Roman Holiday. Accepting for Audrey? The elder of her two sons, 33-year-old Sean Ferrer. Some Oscar-night decisions are easy.

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