Once More With Horror

02.23.15 10:36 AM ET

How John Travolta Hijacked the Oscars

After last year’s Adele Dazeem flub, the actor screws up—and seizes the spotlight—again at the 2015 Oscars with his Idina Menzel chin grab, Scarlett Johansson smooch, and other gaffes.

John Travolta had one job to do at the Oscars—the very same job he royally screwed up during last year’s trophy show.

Redemption for the 2014 Adele Dazeem brain fart was within his grasp. It would take just one brief moment of cutesy patter to repay Frozen star Idina Menzel for the flub heard “round the world,” set up by the un-bombable Neil Patrick Harris.

But Travolta wasn’t going out like that.

His assault on the Academy Awards began hours earlier.

The 61-year-old actor arrived to present at the 87th Academy Awards and saw his old Love Song for Bobby Long co-star Scarlett Johansson on the pre-Oscars red carpet. He wasn’t the only one; everyone spotted ScarJo as she and her plunging neckline posed for photos rocking a pompadour undercut, all but poured into a stunning forest-green Versace gown.

Travolta, who’s on the early promo trail for his April opener The Forger, moseyed on over. He approached the unwitting Johansson from behind and planted an unsolicited smooch on her cheek, sliding a hand upon her tiny, unprepared waist.

Johansson, consummate red-carpet pro that she is, never flinched. She barely registered the intrusion, although paparazzi lenses would capture a brief grimace in her smile in those few unforeseen seconds.

Travolta almost made it through the telecast being upstaged by NPH’s downward-hosting spiral. Then Menzel took to the stage to introduce their bit with a line of sweet, sterile revenge for Adele Dazeem that, like much of the Oscars show, landed with a gentle thud: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage my very dear friend, Galom Gazingo.”

In swept Travolta from the blind spot, with an embrace that lingered a beat too long, a foot too close. He grabbed her chin and spoke intimately. “I deserved that, but you, my darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel….” He pawed at her cheek, then resumed his grasp on that chin. “Let her goooo!” Twitterers sing-screamed. Menzel squirmed politely. Memes were crafted. Gifs were made.

NPH referenced the awkward face-fondling in his closing “what’s in the box” Oscar predictions gag. Not that anyone could have guessed how thoroughly Travolta would have dominated the Oscars: He even managed to go viral when cameras caught him stealth-gazing at unsuspecting Imitation Game nominee Benedict Cumberbatch from the next row back.

But as Travolta explained after the night finally brought a merciful end to 2015’s Awkward Oscars, the Adele Dazeem curse that sparked his campaign as Oscar’s #1 Weirdo was really the fault of someone else altogether.

Gliding breathlessly into Jimmy Kimmel’s studio after the Oscars, a heavily made-up Travolta teased plans to start late-night dance circles at Madonna’s party and addressed “The Incident.”

“Do you guys think that Jimmy and I look alike?” Travolta asked Kimmel’s audience, leaning in close and grabbing the host’s chin. He acknowledged this year’s Menzel manhandling and its instant Internet critics. “[It’s] what I did with Idina—apparently I played with her chin too much.”

He blamed last year’s infamous flub on backstage Oscars chaos and the irresistible amazingness of one Goldie Hawn.

“It was getting close to the time I was supposed to go on—suddenly a page grabbed me and said, ‘You’re on in a minute.’

Unfortunately for him, Goldie Hawn had sashayed into his eye line “and I was star-struck, hugging and loving her up, forgetting I had to go and do this bit.”

Pulled onstage, Travolta was horrified to find the Oscars producers had set the Teleprompter to phonetic pronunciation without warning. He saw the unfamiliar words flash on screen: “In my mind I thought, what is that name? I don’t know this name!”

He said it anyway, and the rest is history.