Sunday night’s 89th Annual Academy Awards featured a bit that saw host Jimmy Kimmel walk a bevy of tourists inside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where the Oscars were being held. One of those tourists, “Gary from Chicago,” has since become a social media sensation — but according to media reports, he is also a registered sex offender who was just released from prison.
According to ABC Chicago, Gary Alan Coe was convicted of attempted rape and served more than 20 years in prison. Coe told the outlet that he was released from prison just three days before he posed for pictures with Denzel Washington and kissed Nicole Kidman’s hand in the front row at the Academy Awards.
Coe, a self-described “Chicago boy,” was accompanied to Sunday’s ceremony by his fiancée, Vickie Vines. After Vines told Kimmel that her favorite actor was Denzel Washington, the ABC funnyman enlisted the Oscar-nominated actor to officiate the couple’s wedding live on-air.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” Washington said as the audience burst into applause. “Kiss the bride.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 27, 2017
Coe said since leaving prison he’s found the love of his life and forgiveness through faith.
“Change is possible. It’s a sad day to be in prison for 20 years and not be able to be a dad, granddad to your children. You know what my son told me today, man, and I almost come to tears. He said he’s proud of me. So to hear your children say that they’re proud of me means the world to me,” Coe said.
The 59-year-old became a social media sensation after his Oscars appearance. He’s been offered free admission to a Chicago Bull basketball game and free food from a local Chicago pizza restaurant.
Gary from Chicago! We've got you covered if you want to come to a game! #Oscars
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 27, 2017
— Gino's East (@ginoseast) February 27, 2017
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Oscars organizers knew about Coe’s prison time.
According to Page Six, Jimmy Kimmel Live! canceled Coe’s scheduled appearance on the show Monday night, though a producer was reported to have told him the cancellation was due to a timing issue.
Many of the stars at Sunday night’s ceremony have been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, including his order temporarily prohibiting immigration from seven terror-prone Middle Eastern countries, which has since been blocked by the 9th Circuit Court. The order would have temporarily suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, which in turn would have prohibited the arrival of refugees into the United States during that period while the refugee vetting process was being reviewed.
A number of celebrities at the Oscars — including Loving actress Ruth Negga and Moana songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda — wore ACLU ribbons on their dresses and tuxedos to show their opposition to Trump’s policies.
Sunday’s politically-charged awards show featured a number of high-profile mistakes, including the use of a photograph of a living person during the “In Memoriam” segment and the now-infamous Best Picture mix-up.
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @JeromeEHudson