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Oscar Gate-Crasher Is Foiled by Academy This Year

David Teitelbaum, the former CalArts film student who launched his Hollywood career by posing as a TV newsman and crashing last year’s Academy Awards, thought he was going legitimate this year.

That is, Teitelbaum said, until someone in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences figured out who he was and revoked the press pass he’d been given to cover Wednesday’s ceremonies for The Movie Channel. Apparently, Teitelbaum said, the academy didn’t like the idea of giving a pass to someone who had gotten past its security system and then made a video of his antics.

“They thought I was exploiting their event, and they didn’t want to condone that by giving me credentials this year,” Teitelbaum, 29, said Thursday. “But nobody thinks I’m degrading their event. I’m just having a good time, doing lighthearted coverage of the show just like a lot of people do. I wasn’t doing a student prank. I was going as a professional.”

Bob Werden, whose office handles media credentials for the Academy Awards ceremony, disputed Teitelbaum’s story Thursday, insisting that his crashing the ceremony last year had nothing to do with his not receiving a press pass this week. Werden said that Teitelbaum and his crew were not given credentials when they came to pick them up earlier this week because they were not affiliated with any official media outlet.

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“If we had something from the Movie Channel confirming that they wanted him credentialed, there would have been no problem,” Werden said, paging through his book of credentialed media organizations. “But we don’t have anything from them. Who cares if he crashed last year?”

Undaunted, Teitelbaum walked around to the back entrance of the Shrine Auditorium compound Wednesday afternoon and snuck in again. Cameras rolling, he proceeded up to the red carpet at the entrance to the auditorium, where he planned to interview the stars as they arrived for the ceremony.

(Last year, the video that resulted from fellow CalArts student Jack Saltzberg’s camera and production work and Teitelbaum’s improvisation as he questioned stars such as Jon Voight, Dudley Moore, Eva Marie Saint and Nicolas Cage, landed the two of them on “The Tonight Show” and propelled Teitelbaum to a number of paying gigs, including Wednesday’s work for The Movie Channel, as a man-on-the-street comedian/film maker.)

When he arrived at the red carpet this year, however, Teitelbaum said that 10 Academy security guards recognized him and, with his video crew recording the entire incident, immediately escorted him off the premises.

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“One of the security guys said, ‘Get that guy out of here, he crashes every year,’ ” Teitelbaum said.

Teitelbaum and crew taped some additional material around the periphery of the Shrine and then headed to Spago for Swifty Lazar’s celebrity-studded bash. There they were welcomed; Teitelbaum interviewees included Jodie Foster, Dean Stockwell, Michael Caine, Gene Siskel and Jacqueline Bisset.

Tonight, Teitelbaum will appear with excerpts of this week’s Oscar exploits on “Late Night With David Letterman.” He’ll then edit his material into a special for The Movie Channel to be aired next month.

In the meantime, things aren’t too cozy between Teitelbaum and his former CalArts partner, Saltzberg, who produced the video that got them all the notoriety last year. Saltzberg the producer hasn’t gotten the kind of exposure that Teitelbaum the comedian has even though, Saltzberg said, the idea for the Oscar video was his. He said he asked Teitelbaum to host the piece just hours before they put on their tuxedos and headed for the Shrine last year.

There’s the matter of who owns the video, for one thing.

Saltzberg said Thursday that the video was his own school project and that he paid more than $2,500 out of his own pocket to edit the piece. He claims that he owns the copyright to the video.

Earlier this week, he objected to a Teitelbaum interview on CNN which featured clips from the ’88 video. Saltzberg said his lawyers warned CNN not to air any more clips because Teitelbaum had not asked Saltzberg for permission to use it. After airing it once, CNN pulled the piece off the air.

“I don’t deny that his input wasn’t important to the video, but the tape still belongs to the producer,” Saltzberg said. “He is using it like it’s his and it’s strictly not his. I don’t want to bastardize the video by having it pop up on every local news show.” Saltzberg wants to market the tape on home video, but he has yet to sit down with Teitelbaum to iron out the financial details.

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Teitelbaum said that he made the video as a student project with Saltzberg and the end result is as much his as it is his former partner’s.

“My contribution to the tape is evident,” Teitelbaum said. “All the dialogue and the improvisation were all my idea. He shot the tape and we edited it together. It’s at least half mine.”

Teitelbaum said he has never signed any sort of release relinquishing his right to use the tape.

Saltzberg, who said he is about to sign a deal to direct his first film--a “bleak and funny” documentary look at struggling stand-up comedians in clubs all over the country--simply characterized his relationship and dispute with Teitelbaum as “typical Hollywood stuff.”

“I guess we lose our innocence pretty fast in this business,” Teitelbaum said.


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