Memo to all past and future Oscar recipients: After your star has faded, after you've spent your fortune and pawned all your silverware, don’t even think about selling that gold statue on your mantle. And remind your loved ones not to try selling it after you're dead.
Just ask Sid Luft, ex-manager and onetime husband (from 1952 to 1962) of the late Judy Garland, and he'll tell you how big a headache it is to get on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' hit list.
Luft was in court Friday, fending off an Academy lawsuit accusing him of trying to sell Garland's Oscar on the Web.
A Web site called Nate's Autographs (www.natesautographs.com) recently listed Garland's long-lost 1940 mini-Oscar statuette, which she received "for her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile" in "The Wizard of Oz," for sale. The auction, which has since been removed from the site, indicated that Luft had endorsed the sale.
Garland reportedly lost said statuette in the 1950s, and it was replaced by the Academy in 1958.
But here's the catch: When she accepted the replacement, Garland signed an agreement promising not to sell the statue without first offering it to the Academy for $10 (today, all Oscar recipients must sign such a contract). The agreement was retroactive, meaning that it also applied to the MIA 1940 statue, should it ever turn up again.
The Academy's lawsuit names both Nate's Auctions and Luft, even though Luft says he had nothing to do with the auction. Academy spokesman John Pavlik says Luft is a defendant "simply because he's the last person that supposedly had [the statue] in his possession."
But the way Luft tells it, he doesn't even know whether the trophy that was put up for bid was the real deal -– or if the entire thing was just a hoax.
"I have no idea," Luft, now 85, tells Hollywood.com. "It's like the Maltese Falcon."
Luft added that he doesn't know what happened to the 1940 statuette, but he thinks Garland broke it.
The folks behind the Oscars don't know what happened to the little gold guy, either, but a photograph on the Nate's Autographs site appeared to be the bonafide 1940 trophy, says Joel Thvedt, an attorney for the Academy.
Meanwhile, we tried contacting Nate Sanders, the guy behind Nate's Auctions, but he hasn't responded with his side to this mystery tale.
This isn't the first time the Academy has sued Luft for trying to sell a Garland Oscar. In 1993, he tried auctioning the 1958 replacement trophy through Christie's, but the Academy got a court injunction preventing it. (Luft later gave the trophy to daughter Lorna Luft.)
But Luft's lawyer, Stephen Spatano, says the Academy has no evidence that the ex-showbiz magnate (who produced Garland's 1954 classic "A Star Is Born") has done anything wrong this time.
"Mr. Luft has no connection with anything that's going on in this case," says Spatano. "This is just an example of the Academy using its power to bully people."