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Who Can Fill Billy's Shoes for the Oscars? : Commentary: The buzz about this year's Academy Awards host has been too quiet. Here are some ideas on who can fill the bill.

January 10, 1995|DAVID KRONKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WANTED: For one of the best jobs in Hollywood, a self-starter to entertain 1 billion people for three hours while little trophies are handed out like so many 4-H ribbons. Should be able to talk your way out of embarrassing jams with panache, and keep things exciting even when sound effects editors thank each of their ancestors by name. Must be famous and own a nice outfit. Salary commensurate with experience.

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When Billy Crystal announced last week that he wouldn't be assuming the hosting chores for this year's March 27 Academy Awards ceremony, the rational thinking was, "Surely, Hollywood can find just one person with a breezy wit who can handle this."

Then a couple of days passed, and no replacement was named, and suddenly everyone wondered: "Surely Hollywood can find just one person--who'll take the gig?"

In the treacherous minefield of Hollywood egomania, things have been quiet--\o7 too\f7 quiet. News reports Monday said David Letterman had been approached, to which a Letterman spokesman replied, "We get these calls every year. There's nothing happening on this end." So that settles nothing.

No one seems to want to go on the record about who has been approached, who is on the A-list or B-list or C-minus-list, the thinking being that if a potential host discovers--gasp!--that he or she is not the first choice, they'll be insulted. Look at it this way--Crystal was the first choice, everyone else is a second choice; somehow, we'll all have to deal with it.

There's nothing wrong with being a second choice--do the job to acclaim, as Whoopi Goldberg did last year, and folks forget you weren't always the only possibility. With that in mind, here's a quick list of possible candidates, along with reasons that they'd make a good--and maybe not so good--host for Hollywood's night of nights.

Whoopi Goldberg?

Pro: She exhibited grace under pressure last year.

Con: She'd probably make fun of The Times again.

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David Letterman?

Pro: He's still the best at sardonic, off-the-cuff wit.

Con: Off chance that he would run clip of his appearance in "Cabin Boy."

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Tom Hanks?

Pro: Hollywood's current most likable guy, and he has a terrific sense of humor.

Con: It would probably be bad form for the host to snub his guests by walking off with one of the trophies.

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Jim Carrey?

Pro: Hot comic with an aggressively manic, silly style.

Con: \o7 Three hours \f7 of that?

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Robin Williams?

(See Jim Carrey.)

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Jay Leno?

Pro: It's the kind of thing he could do in his sleep.

Con: Might put someone's eye out with those wildly gesticulating arms of his.

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Eddie Murphy?

Pro: Might be able to reconvince the world of his comic genius.

Con: Might not.

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Roseanne?

Pro: Well, it'd be interesting.

Con: Maybe too interesting.

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Ellen DeGeneres?

Pro: She did a great job with the Emmys; what's the diff?

Con: Not enough film-industry experience to savage it appropriately with the sort of winking in-jokes that made Crystal so much fun.

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Jerry Seinfeld?

Pro: Would bring a fresh, absurdist perspective to the doling out of awards.

Con: No real movie connection, but that never hurt Johnny Carson.

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Johnny Carson?

Pro: He was always sharp when he did it.

Con: Might seem a little too old-guard after more recent hipper hosts.

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Dennis Miller?

Pro: His smart, savage wit would be just the thing for the broadcast.

Con: The producers probably want someone with a higher profile.

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Garry Shandling?

Pro: He could turn the whole event, with all its backstage back-biting, into a "very special episode" of "The Larry Sanders Show."

Con: Mainstream audience might wig out from an overdose of self-reflexiveness.

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Dana Carvey?

Pro: Did MTV Awards show.

Con: Did MTV Awards show.

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Ricki Lake?

Pro: Could provoke the losers into screaming attacks on the winners.

Con: Even on her show, that gets old really quick.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Pro: Instead of those insufferable dance numbers, there'd be some mighty fine head-busting.

Con: As with the President of the United States, there's probably some bylaw stating that the host should be American-born.

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Chevy Chase?

Pro: Seems to have plenty of free time these days.

Con: Repeat after us: " 'The Chevy Chase Show.' 'The Chevy Chase Show.' "

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Tim Allen?

Pro: Ultra-popular comic and TV star just broke into the movies in a splashy fashion.

Con: We're thinking, we're thinking. . .

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