Life has been a song for Dean Pitchford, a lyricist and writer by trade, and easily Hawaii’s most notable past Oscar winner.
His title tune for "Fame," with music by Michael Gore, earned the 1980 Oscar for best song, beating out another nominee from the same movie, "Out Here on My Own" (with Lesley Gore providing lyrics to her brother Michael’s music).
Pitchford also had two best song nominees in 1984, for "Footloose" (a collaboration with Kenny Loggins) and "Let’s Hear It for the Boy" (co-composed with Tom Snow), but lost to Stevie Wonder‘s "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from "The Woman in Red."
In anticipation of tonight’s 83rd Annual Academy Awards, here’s a Q&A with Pitchford:
QUESTION: How did "Fame" change your life?
ANSWER: I signed a music publishing deal with Warner Bros. and began to criss-cross the country, working with songwriters in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville. I expanded beyond the music biz by writing my first film script, "Footloose."
Q: You were nominated for "Footloose" and "Let’s Hear It for the Boy." Do you think that caused a split vote?
A: You can never tell; after all, "Fame" won alongside "Out Here on My Own." Every best song nominee that year had reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts: "Footloose" and "Let’s Hear It For the Boy," "I Just Called To Say I Love You," which won, and "Against All Odds" and "Ghostbusters." That’s never happened before or since.
Q: Does your statue have a place of honor?
A: My statue actually lives — alongside the Golden Globe — on the top shelf of a bookcase in my assistant’s office. My housekeeper would take it down, week after week, to polish it. After about six months, I noticed that the plating on the statue was disappearing, revealing a silvery-gray metal underneath. My housekeeper had rubbed the gold off! Fortunately there’s a service (expensive!) to have it replated.
Q: The best song category lately hasn’t recognized bona fide hits. Has the value of a movie hit song dropped a notch or two?
A: In the past, the Oscar was won by the most popular song of the year; a radio hit had a much better chance of taking home the prize. The Music Branch has changed its nomination and voting procedures to screen the field to find the songs that contribute to the effectiveness of the movie.
Q: Will you attend this year’s ceremony?
A: I continue to vote but attending the ceremony is an exhausting ordeal. Between the three-hour ceremony and the circuit of parties that follows, it’s rare to get home before 2 or 3 a.m. I like having friends over, ordering Chinese food, and watching the show wearing shorts and a T-shirt. …
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Here are my picks for the key races: best picture, "The Social Network"; best director, Tom Hooper, "The King’s Speech"; actor, Colin Firth, "The King’s Speech"; supporting actor, Christian Bale, "The Fighter"; actress, Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"; supporting actress, Melissa Leo, "The Fighter."
I know, I know: Usually, the best film and top director are inseparable; I look for the infrequent split this year. …
THE LOCAL ANGLE: One local-born "name" (her family moved to Sydney, Australia, when she was 4) has won a best actress statuette — Nicole Kidman, for 2002’s "The Hours." But she rightfully doesn’t claim to be a local.
Radford grad Bette Midler has been nominated twice for best actress — for "The Rose" (1979) and "For the Boys" (1991) — but has never won, though she still has a spot in her heart for her Hawaiian roots. Sally Field ("Norma Rae") and Jodie Foster ("Silence of the Lambs") beat her. … The late Pat Morita, who lived here sporadically, was a best supporting actor contender for "The Karate Kid" (1984), but lost to Haing Ngor for "The Killing Fields." …
And that’s "Show Biz." …