I’d like to thank the Academy for this incredible honor…
Wait, that’s not it. Right, here we go now…
I’d like to thank Sam Smith for kinda screwing up his acceptance of an Academy Award for best song. Yeah, that’s more like it.
Seriously, though, Sam, you did us all a favor by well, putting your foot in it on your big night. You reminded a lot of people how easy it is to forget history – even recent history.
So I thought I’d take a moment on the 25th Anniversary of Howard Ashman’s death, to let you know who he was.
He was a writer, lyricist and director. He is generally acknowledged to have been one of the guiding forces behind Disney animation’s vaunted renaissance. He had a supple and creative mind. He was endlessly amusing, neurotic and loving. He saw a B movie and thought it would be a great musical and when he was 32 he hit it big with that musical (it’s called Little Shop of Horrors).
In the eight and a half years after Little Shop, Howard Ashman wrote and directed a Broadway musical called Smile, and he wrote the lyrics for and was instrumental in the creative development of two Disney animated films you may have heard of (The Little Mermaid – for which he received an Academy Award for Best Song and Beauty and the Beast – ditto) as well as much of Aladdin.
He couldn’t do as much on Aladdin, you see, Sam, because he died in 1991 before work really began on it. And he did what some consider his most sensitive and brilliant work on Beauty and The Beast when he was suffering from the horrors of AIDS.
That was his professional life. Howard was also my brother (which I modestly consider his most important role but, fair enough, no reason you would know him for that). And Howard was Bill Lauch’s partner and lover (Bill, as you may have heard, Sam, was the first openly gay man to accept an Academy Award for his deceased partner).
See, you really did do us all a favor, Sam. You reminded us why we should take history seriously. Why the AIDS epidemic of the last century must never be ignored or swept under the rug or, even worse, romanticized. It was ugly, it was brutal, it stole from the world some of the best and the brightest not only in the arts but in the sciences and the humanities and mostly, in the hearts of all those who loved its victims. It was cruel and unnecessary and a terrible curse made all the worse because of the painful slowness of the richest country in the world to acknowledge the disease and attempt to find a cure.
But good on you, Sam. You won and you should enjoy and appreciate the honor. And, though I don’t know much about you at all, I do think you’re pretty cute.
Maybe we should date…