NOT FOND OF FONDA

Ken Hoffman relives his costly celebrity gambling fail

Photo via: Peter Fonda/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Actor Peter Fonda, co-writer and star of the groundbreaking counterculture film Easy Rider, died last week. He was 79.

Here's my Peter Fonda story and the night I took the worst gambling "bad beat" of my life.

In 1998, Fonda was nominated for a movie called Ulee's Gold. I never saw this movie, I still have no idea what it's about, but I kept hearing about Fonda racking up important acting awards:

Golden Globes: "Best Performance by and Actor in a Motion Picture."

Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics: "Best Actor."

National Society of Film Critics: "Best Actor."New York Film Critics: "Best Actor."

Society of Texas Film Critics: "Best Actor."

On and on, Fonda was sweeping every acting award in sight for Ulee's Gold.

Fond of Fonda in Vegas

Around that time, I checked the Las Vegas odds for the upcoming Academy Awards. Internet gambling was starting to hit big and I happened to have an account with an Irish bookmaking site.

The nominees for Best Actor were: Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting, Jack Nicholson for As Good as it Gets, Dustin Hoffman for Wag the Dog, Robert Duvall for The Apostle, and Peter Fonda for Ulee's Gold.

I thought for sure that Fonda would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Oscar. After all, he was sweeping all the acting awards in the runup to the Academy Awards. But whoa, Fonda was only the third choice among the Vegas oddsmakers at 8-1.

Easy Rider; easy money

Are you kidding? This is the lock of the millennium. I was going to load up on Peter Fonda to win Best Actor. Easy money. A printing press. A key to Fort Knox.

But first … I'm in the media and I used to sit two desks over from Joe Leydon at the old Houston Post. Joe absolutely lived and breathed movies. These days he teaches film studies at UH and HCC and reviews movies for Variety. I trusted his knowledge of the industry. I called Joe and asked him, "Who's going to win Best Actor at the Oscars?" Like every other film critic in America, he was all over Peter Fonda's performance in Ulee's Gold. I double asked him, "Are you sure?"

Continue on CultureMap to learn how Peter Fonda inspired a Beatles song and more.

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