Rob Lowe and Snow White "brutalized" "Proud Mary." Critics pounced. Disney sued. Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, and more than a dozen other Hollywood luminaries declared the 61st Annual Academy Awards an "embarrassment."
But other than that? The Allan Carr-produced Oscars, which marks its 25th anniversary next month, wasn't that bad.
Held on March 29, 1989, the show, which employed no host, was marked by a near-sweep of the top categories by "Rain Man," a coming-of-age victory for Jodie Foster, named Best Actress for "The Accused," and a breakthrough win for Pixar, which claimed the studio's first Oscar, Best Animated Short for "Tin Toy."
Elsewhere, Sean Connery bantered with his James Bond successor, Roger Moore. Carrie Fisher and Martin Short walked out on stage in the same dress. Lucille Ball, who would die one month later, made her last TV appearance (and made it a good one, enjoying laughs with frequent costar Bob Hope). And according to an Associated Press dispatch from the ceremony, "the night belonged to the 'Rain Man' himself," Dustin Hoffman, who claimed his second career Best Actor statuette.
[Photos: Forgotten Couples of Oscars Past]
Some good stuff there. In fact, if you only watched the Academy's curated YouTube playlist of the 1989 Oscars, and ignored the poufy hair and pastel prom dresses, you wouldn't think anything unusual or untoward happened at all. This is because, one, the Academy wisely chose its clips ("I Wanna Be an Oscar Winner," for example, doesn't make the cut), and, two, the show's reputation as the "Worst. Oscar. Show. Ever." isn't really based on the show.
"Sure, the 1989 Oscar ceremony led to the actual first-time use of the phrase 'What were they thinking?' But its legend is chiefly tied to the singular image of Rob Lowe and Snow White," Jim McKairnes, a Temple University media professor and former network TV executive, said via email.
See, the Lowe-and-Snow White opening was that bad.
"I still am seeing a psychiatrist over it," Lowe joked on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in 2009.
Where Carr, the producer behind the movie musical "Grease," had promised "magical," audiences experienced an epic fail that incongruously led Disney's Snow White (played by newcomer Eileen Bowman) from the old Hollywood of the Cocoanut Grove to a "blind date" and rock duet with Lowe.
[Photos: Oscar Stars In Their Youth]
"All these poor people were like, 'What the hell are you doing?'" Bowman remembered for a 2013 interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
Critics wondered the same thing.
"The 61st Academy Awards ceremony began by creating the impression that there would never be a 62nd," the New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote.
Watch Lucille Ball's Last TV Appearance on the Fateful Oscar Show:
The day after the show, Disney sued the Academy for trademark infringement. (The studio hadn't been consulted about the telecast's plans for Snow White.) Then Newman, Andrews, and others attached their names to a letter that took the show to task for "demeaning" the celebration of film. And then Carr, who died in 1999, never ate lunch in his town again.
But as for the rest of the 1989 show: The Associated Press found the telecast no more "plodding" than the usual Oscars. Viewers gave the telecast its biggest audience in six years. And Billy Crystal got good reviews for his bit as presenter. ("Billy Crystal," Maslin wrote, "left the distinct impression that he should have been the evening's host." )
From a legacy standpoint, the 1989 Oscars might be among the most important of awards shows. Robert Hofler's biography, "Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr," and Steve Pond's blow-by-blow account of Oscar productions, "The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards," both make cases for the maligned producer as innovator, the man who replaced "And the winner is..." with the now-standard "And the Oscar goes to...," who upped the emphasis on fashion and designers, and who, in a roundabout way, led to the Crystal era of the Oscars, which we now know as the modern era of the Oscars. (Crystal's opening joke from his first outing as Oscar host in 1990: "Is that for me, or are you just glad I'm not Snow White?")
The other thing about the Carr-produced Oscars is that it can't be the worst if other telecasts were.
The 2011 James Franco- and Anne Hathaway-hosted Oscars was, for instance, McKairnes said, "the kind of party that greets you at the front door with badness and then allows badness to follow you around for the rest of your time there. Franco and Hathaway made for a bad night." (In a tieback to the Carr Oscars, Crystal was a presenter on that show, provided welcome comic relief, and then saw himself tapped to host the following year.)
In 2013, Seth MacFarlane's "We Saw Your Boobs" opening and other gags provoked the kind of cries of "worst" seldom heard since Lowe's "Proud Mary." (In another tieback to the Carr Oscars, MacFarlane's polarizing stint was a Nielsen success.)
"Worst-ever Oscar telecasts come down to more than single images: They're born of hours of torment," McKairnes said.
And, really, the Lowe-and-Snow White number only lasted about 12 minutes.
More Oscar coverage from Yahoo Movies: