The Oscars have delivered some unexpected and unforgettable moments over the past 88 years, leaving generations of movie fans with favorite memories to look back on.
PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle has been front and center for many of these moments over the years, but he will never forget the one Oscars incident that made him fall in love with the awards show.
“I think the moment when I actually fell in love with the Oscars was during the 1982 ceremony,” Cagle recalls in PEOPLE’s The Story Behind the Story series.
“I was a kid, I was at home in Texas, I was watching the Academy Awards and all of a sudden, I think it was Johnny Carson who said, ‘And here to present the best original song is a lovely young woman, Bette Midler.”
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The ensuing scene has become Oscars legend. Midler, 37 at the time, approached the stage wearing what Cagle described as “probably the ugliest dress that anyone ever designed … It looked like a prom dress and a tube top and it was some awful color green.”
When Midler reached the microphone, she joked, “I guess you didn’t think it was possible for anyone to overdress for this affair.”
After warming up the crowd, the actress began to read out the nominees for best original song and “proceeded to insult just about every one of them,” Cagle said laughing.
“For some reason, that moment in the Oscars spoke to me and i thought, ‘Hm, I want to be part of that.’ ”
Years later, when he was tapped by ABC to cohost an Oscars pre-show for the second year in a row, Cagle would form his own unforgettable Oscar moment.
His last minute assignment was to wrangle that year’s five best actress nominees ”“ Mo’Nique, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Penelope Cruz ”“ for a rapid fire red carpet interview.
After getting all the women in one place, which he says “was not easy,” he experienced a nightmarish tech problem: his earpiece failed.
“I couldn’t hear a word that they said because there was a lot of noise and then there was something going on in my earpiece,” he remembered. “So I would just wait for their mouths to stop moving and then i would move on to the next one.”
In an Oscar night miracle, Cagle “managed to get them all in.” But all these years later he jokes, “I have no idea what they said.”
Watch the “PEOPLE & EW Red Carpet Live” streaming pre-show celebration on Feb. 28 beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT on PEOPLE.com and EW.com, with live red carpet coverage, fashion and beauty trends, and winner predictions. And catch the 88th Academy Awards at 7 ET/4 PT on ABC. Click here for a handy ballot of this year’s Oscar nominees!