He's not getting an Oscar, but he is getting the booty. And a ticket to the main event to boot. For Hollywood.com's complete Oscar coverage, go here.
Willie Fulgear, the man who found 52 out of 55 stolen Oscars, was presented here today with a $50,000 reward for returning the MIA gold-plated statuettes, which he found while rummaging around a garbage bin.
"It feels good," said Fulgear, the 61-year-old self-employed scrap-metal dealer said at an afternoon press conference at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, where he was proclaimed a “local hero.”
After the money, the other big question involving Fulgear was: So, is he getting his ticket to Sunday's Oscar ceremony?
The answer today from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Yes. In fact, Fulgear's getting two tickets: One for himself, and one for a guest (he says he's taking his 22-year-old son Allen).
"Anybody who says honest don't pay, send 'em to me," Fulgear said. "I'll tell 'em it pays. I'm a poor man and I stumbled across gold, and I gave it back. A lot of people wouldn't do that, but my Mama didn't raise me like that."
Fulgear said he intends to use the reward money to buy a house in his native Mississippi.
Roadway Express, which cut Fulgear's check, transported the 55 freshly minted Oscar statuettes from the Chicago foundry, where they were made, to a loading dock in Los Angeles, where they disappeared. The trucking company reported the awards missing March 10, and it offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the thieves’ arrest and conviction.
Technically, Fulgear didn’t qualify for that reward, but the trucking firm decided to give him a “special award” anyway, in appreciation of his honesty, said T.J. O’Connor, a Roadway vice president. The original reward may yet be given to a tipster — who thus far remains anonymous — who helped lead police to the culprits, he said.
Fulgear’s rewards may have only begun. He says numerous media organizations are in a bidding war to hire him as their official Oscar mascot. He won’t name names, but says the offers are as high as $10,000 so far. “I’ve talked to everybody, from the roaches all the way up to the gods,” he muses.
Whichever offer he chooses, come Sunday night he’s assured of arriving at the Shrine Auditorium in a limousine, decked out in black-tie attire; ironically, the Shrine is just a few miles from the lower-middle-class neighborhood where Fulgear and his son rent a one-bedroom apartment.
“I can’t remember the last time I rode in a limo. And I really can’t remember the last time I wore a tux,” he says.
Fulgear’s odyssey began Sunday night. In preparation for an upcoming move, he was searching for empty boxes to pack his belongings, when he literally stumbled upon the trophies near a supermarket Dumpster. Fulgear's find netted the return of 52 of the missing 55. Three of the trophies are still unrecovered.
Two Roadway Express employees were arrested in connection with the case, but prosecutors declined to file charges against one of them. Police have said more arrests might be forthcoming. Initially, police stopped short of saying that Fulgear was not under investigation for the crime. But as of Wednesday, Fulgear was completely ruled out as a suspect, police said.
Fulgear says plans are in the works to bring him onstage at the Oscars with host Billy Crystal, although officials at the Academy wouldn’t confirm it. Asked if he’s nervous about appearing live on worldwide TV, he said, “No, I’m not nervous. I been on TV all this week.” Friday morning, he’ll wake up early for a 4 a.m. interview with Katie Couric on NBC’s “Today” show, he said.
Fulgear’s pre-Oscar makeover has already begun: He spent Thursday morning getting a haircut and a shave, and when he arrived at the police station to receive his check, he exchanged his old blazer and fedora-style hat for a brand-spanking-new baseball cap and sports jacket, both emblazoned with the Roadway Express logo.
But he insisted that he isn’t destitute, as some news stories have portrayed him. Fulgear — a former soul musician who claims to have opened for artists like Al Green and Sam Cooke during the 1950s and ‘60s, in Chicago — is a dealer of junked auto engines and transmissions; his motto, he said, is “your trash is my cash.”
“I make pretty good money at what I do. But $50,000 all at once — yeah, that’s a lot to me,” Fulgear said.
As for his Oscar predictions, Fulgear is keeping silent. Son Allen admitted that they last movie they saw was “Saving Private Ryan.”
“We liked that one a lot. But I don’t know if it’s nominated or not,” Allen Fulgear said.
Hey, give the guy a break. His dad saved the Oscars.
Who wants an Oscar? Apparently not the person or persons who dumped some near a Dumpster in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles police say that some of the MIA statuettes -- presumed stolen on about March 8 -- surfaced tonight near that trash heap. The find was reported at about 9:30 p.m. PST, officer Dan Cox told Hollywood.com.
It wasn't known exactly how many Oscars were now accounted for. A grand sum of 55 were reported missing by Academy officials.
On Friday, the shipping company responsible for the absconded Oscar shipment put up a $50,000 reward for the lost statues.
While Academy brass had vowed that the March 26 ceremonies would not be hindered by the loss, they made a point of noting that they did want their Oscars back.
Consider part of that wish granted.
LOS ANGELES, March 19, 2000 - Memo to this year's Oscar nominees: If you win, don't forget to thank Willie Fulgear.
Oscar: Back in custody Fulgear is the 61-year-old man who solved the Oscar crime of the century, finding 52 of 55 purloined Academy Award statuettes around a Dumpster near a Food-4-Less discount grocery store late Sunday in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Los Angeles, about five miles west of Downtown.
Los Angeles police, meanwhile, today announced here at a noon press conference, attended by the recently recovered (and unharmed) awards, that two longtime Roadway Express employees -- a truck driver and a loading dock worker -- had been arrested in connection with the case.
"The suspects told us they did it for profit, and they thought they would make money," Los Angeles Police Detective Marc Zavala said.
Roadway Express is the shipping company that handled the transfer of the newly made Oscars from the Chicago foundry where they were made to Los Angeles. The awards were reported missing from a Roadway Express dock in Bell, Calif., on March 10. Coincidentally, Bell is the same city where thousands of Oscar ballots, misplaced by the U.S. Postal Service, were found earlier this month.
The two suspects, who were arrested Saturday afternoon, are being held on $100,000 bail each.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Robert Rehme, also present at the press conference, couldn't make much sense of the heist. "How are you going to sell an Oscar?" he asked. "It wasn't too smart. I think it's just a foolish thing for them to do - a terrible mistake."
Fulgear's find was reported at about 9:30 p.m. PST Sunday, police said.
The man told reporters he literally stumbled onto the trophies, kicking one with his foot as he rummaged through boxes.
"It was heavy and I opened it up … Everybody knows who Oscar is," Fulgear told the Associated Press.
Apparently figuring finders-keepers, Fulgear packed 'em into his car. He called his son asking why a bunch of Oscars would be in the trash; the son called police.
For what it's worth, Fulgear was not at today's media to-do. Police are being cagey about his status. They don't say he's a suspect, but they won't say he's not a suspect, either. Neither are they ruling out the possibility of more arrests.
The Academy also is playing it close to the vest when it comes to its apparent benefactor. When asked if Fulgear's deed would win him a ticket to Sunday's ceremony, a cryptic Rehme said: "We certainly thank Mr. Fulgear, but we'll have to wait until this [investigation] is totally resolved."
On Friday, Roadway Express put up a $50,000 reward for the lost statues. Today, Roadway Express was non-committal about whether it'd be cutting Fulgear the check. "This is still an open investigation," a spokesman said.
Who made off with Sharon Stone's stones?
A 48-year-old ex-housekeeper of the "Basic Instinct" star was due to be arraigned in a Los Angeles court today on charges she purloined more than $300,000 in jewelry and other items from the actress' West L.A. home, authorities said.
Socorro Del Carmen Membrano faces one count of grand theft. She was arrested Tuesday following a police investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Membrano worked for Stone for three years, prosecutors said. It was not known what was allegedly stolen -- or when.
Stone's camp declined comment.
SEEING RED? The Halle Berry hit-and-run saga unfolds, as Los Angeles deputies now believe the actress ran a red light before striking a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Feb. 23 and fleeing the scene in West Hollywood.
On the heels of this update comes news that Berry was involved in a similar incident three years ago in which no charges were filed. Berry and the other driver "worked out a settlement on their own," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Kenessey said of the prior incident.
Berry's case has been turned over to prosecutors, who are reviewing 911 tapes. Investigators reportedly have recommended the filing of criminal charges.
CRABBY APPLE: Singer Fiona Apple gave New York fans quite a show Tuesday when she stormed off the stage 40 minutes into her concert.
According to MTV, the 22-year-old, who recently contributed music to boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," was plagued by sound-equipment problems and couldn't hear herself sing. After complaining and apologizing for the poor quality, she began to cry. The cry snowballed into a meltdown, and the singer reportedly yelled, "All you critics out there better not [expletive] tear me apart or I'll [expletive] kill you."
Finally, Apple announced that the band was leaving for five minutes so the monitors could be fixed. But after 20 minutes, a representative appeared and said Apple would not finish the show and asked fans to save their ticket stubs, saying another -- and better -- New York show would be scheduled.
Apple, whose latest album title, "When the Pawn ..." is longer than a Barbra Streisand acceptance speech, appeared on David Letterman's CBS show the night after the incident. We're happy to say the sound was working fine, and she made it through without incident.
MUSIC BEAT: Surprise, surprise -- Santana's multiple-Grammy-winning "Supernatural" stayed at the top of the Billboard charts this week, hitting the nine-times-platinum mark. It's followed by Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001." Christina Aguilera's self-titled album also received a Grammy boost to No. 3; Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" and Eiffel 65's "Europop" rounded out the Top Five.
The Top Five singles in the country are as follows: 1. "Amazed," Lonestar; 2. "Maria Maria," Santana featuring The Product G&B; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "I Knew I Loved You," Savage Garden; 5. "Get it on Tonite," Montell Jordan.
OBITS: The Oscar-nominated composer for such films as "From Here to Eternity" died Sunday in a San Diego hospital of cardiovascular disease. George Duning was 92. Duning picked up five career Academy Award nominations. He never won. ...
... David Levy, a former network executive who helped birth the TV version of "The Addams Family," died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, it has been learned. He was 87. During his run as an NBC programming exec, Levy was also instrumental in bringing "Dr. Kildare" and "Bonanza" to the Peacock network ...
... Begona Palacios, actress and widow of director Sam Peckinpah, died Wednesday of a liver disorder. She was 58. Palacios was best known in Mexico for action movies such as "The Saint Against the Strangler" in 1963. Peckinpah died in 1984 ...
QUICK TAKES: Is it over for The Cure? It might be. The alt-rock band's 13th studio album, "Bloodflowers," deals with finality, and lead singer Robert Smith -- a k a the Well-Lipsticked One -- says the song "Maybe Someday" is a specific farewell. "I just feel that it would be good to stop while we're still good," Smith told Reuters ...
... Pee Wee King, the singer, bandleader and songwriter who co-wrote "Tennessee Waltz," is in guarded condition after suffering a heart attack, a spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., told Reuters. King is 86 ...
... Cameron Diaz, who went frumpy in "Being John Malkovich," will return to glam (hopefully) as a presenter for the 72nd Academy Awards, to be held March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium ...
... "Go" director Doug Liman has lost his dog, Jackson, and is offering a combined reward of $1,000 and a part in his next film to whoever finds the Australian shepherd, last seen Feb. 18 in Washington. Liman tells the New York Post: "I keep hearing from actors who are out there looking."
--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.
One day you're the hero in a high-profile theft case that makes headlines and changes your life.
A few months later, you're the victim of a low-profile crime that goes almost unnoticed but also changes your life.
So it goes for Willie Fulgear, the 61-year-old Los Angeles scrap metal dealer who earned a $50,000 reward in March, when he found most of the gold-plated Oscar statuettes that were stolen en route from a Chicago foundry to Los Angeles. In addition to the money, he received a limo ride to the Academy Awards and a seat alongside Hollywood's finest.
Sometime from May 15 to June 1, thieves broke into Fulgear's tiny apartment and made off with a 500 pound safe that contained about $40,000 of his reward money, plus some jewelry, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Fulgear was visiting relatives in Mississippi at the time.
The LAPD would give no more details of the crime. We tried calling Willie himself, but his phone number has since been changed or disconnected.
So it goes for Willie Fulgear.