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Artist: Sculpture of Oscar on cocaine spotlights showbiz drug culture

The piece, titled "Hollywood's Best Party," is intended to bring attention to the "hidden problem" of drug use in the film industry

By Doug G. Ware

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The 87th Academy Awards ceremony will honor filmmakers and technical artists with the highest achievement on Sunday. But the industry's drug users received a "tribute" with an Oscar of their own, and a few days early.

Los Angeles street artist Plastic Jesus -- a well-known character in Tinsel Town -- placed a sculpture on Hollywood Boulevard depicting an Oscar statuette kneeling down with a rolled-up $100 bill between his fingers, about to whiff two lines of cocaine on a red carpet. A black American Express Centurion card, presumably used to cut the lines, lies nearby. Below is a gold-plated sign that read, "Hollywood's Best Party."

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Plastic Jesus, who has never divulged his real name in interviews, said the display was placed at La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, at the edge of where the street will be cordoned off during the Oscar ceremony at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday -- and was meant to draw awareness to rampant drug use in the film industry.

"We are deluded if we are saying that cocaine isn't a major part of Hollywood and almost every other city in the world," the artist told The New York Daily News. "A lot of people will sit down and watch the Oscar show this Sunday and then go and indulge in cocaine."

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"The piece is intended to draw attention to Hollywood's hidden problem of drug addiction that effects hundreds of people in the showbiz industry and is largely ignored until the death of a high-profile A-list celebrity," photographer Nick Stern, who works with Plastic Jesus, told website LAist.

The Daily News reported that the display had been removed only a few hours after it appeared -- because apparently, Plastic Jesus said, a "grouchy, old man started ranting about it."

It doesn't sound like the artwork will reappear on Hollywood Boulevard. Plastic Jesus said, "People have posted it. It got enough publicity to get people to think." However, the artist said he plans to display it on Melrose Avenue on Saturday.

You could call "Hollywood's Best Party" a sequel of sorts to "Hollywood's Best Kept Secret" -- a similar piece the artist created for the event last year: An Oscar statuette with a belt cinched around its left arm and a heroin needle firmly implanted, which appeared shortly after the drug-related death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This year's piece took Plastic Jesus three weeks to create. The statue is composed of fiberglass and the faux cocaine of crushed aspirin. The artist said the statue isn't meant to depict any celebrity in particular.

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"The piece is really just to show how much a part of everyday life for people cocaine is," he said. "In the current war on drugs, this isn't working. The term controlled substance is an absolute joke. There is absolutely no control."

The 87th Academy Awards will be presented Sunday at 7 p.m. EST (4 p.m. PST) and be broadcast live by ABC.

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