A trip to the Oscars would be cool almost any day of the week. But doing that days after being released from decades in prison? That’s what happened to the Oscars’ newest viral sensation, Gary Alan Coe, better known as “Gary From Chicago.”
Coe, 59, and his fiancee, Vickie Vines, were the first of a dozen or so unsuspecting tourists to enter the Dolby Theatre while the Oscars were in progress.
“I spent this afternoon laughing and crying with Gary and Vicky,” public defender Karen Nash posted Monday on Facebook. “For those of you who missed it, I spent years working on Gary's case. He got a life sentence for stealing perfume in 1997, and we finally won release this year. He got out on Friday, and was sight seeing with his lovely fiancé Vicky. If you watched the Oscars, you know the rest.”
The state’s inmate locator, which still lists Coe as a resident of the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison at Corcoran, notes Oct. 20, 1994, as his original prison admission date. Other than Nash’s statement, details of the Chicago native’s offenses are unclear, but a life sentence would imply some sort of three-strikes conviction
When he and his fiancee entered the Dolby on Sunday, host Jimmy Kimmel immediately introduced them to stars including Nicole Kidman, Octavia Spencer, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone before getting Vines to admit that her favorite actor was “that man right there” as she pointed to Denzel Washington.
After Kimmel asked Washington if he would be the couple’s best man, the actor popped out of his seat and “married” the couple, who are scheduled to wed in July.
“I've been watching Denzel since he was on 'St. Elsewhere.' Oh my God. I could die and go to heaven right now,” Vines told the ABC affiliate in Chicago.
A person purporting to be Coe called the Chicago Tribune on Monday to explain what happened. He and his fiancee were holding hands, walking down Hollywood Boulevard, when they were offered a free sightseeing tour by someone he thought was a Starline Tours operator. There were about a dozen other passengers on the bus, the man said, and they had no idea they’d be stopping at the Academy Awards.
"When they opened the door, we were in the Oscars live," he said.
“It was a surprise for the customers,” a Starline employee told People. “They thought they were just on a normal tour. A few people had made reservations but others bought their tickets that day.”
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