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Old Hollywood is dead: RIP

Old Hollywood, age 69, died Monday night at its spring home in Los Angeles. The cause of death was determined to be complications from neglect, which strikes investigators as odd since an estimated 1-billion people were watching at the time.

Those eyewitnesses told police they hadn't noticed, since they were trying to decipher Winona Ryder's fashion statement and what the Lord of the Dance guy from PBS was doing at the Academy Awards.

The health of Old Hollywood has been failing in recent weeks, after it was revealed that Debbie Reynolds hadn't been nominated for a best actress Oscar and someone named Emily Watson made the final list. Then came reports that only one film with major studio support, a big star and ticket sales to match was among the finalists for the coveted best-picture prize. Friends whispered that it was only a matter of time.

Old Hollywood's former rival _ Television _ relayed the news of the star system's passing to a worldwide audience at 9:59 p.m. EST. Just about the time that Lauren Bacall had that All About Eve moment that every female actor thinks will never happen to them: Watching a younger woman whisk away the Oscar she had been promised by everyone but the voters. Bacall is still big; it's the pictures around her that got small.

In a valiant attempt to survive, Old Hollywood endured shock therapy treatments in recent weeks, administered by a roving band of independent specialists without Beverly Hills licenses.

Arkansas wunderhick Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) programed Old Hollywood to reward rich contemporary writing instead of dutiful classics by Miller and Shakespeare.

Cinema surgeons Joel and Ethan Coen used a winning, controversial humor therapy in Fargo, then got nominated for film editing under an assumed name. Old Hollywood wasn't sure how to take this apparent joke.

An unidentified hypnotist was credited with breaking Old Hollywood's compulsion to give every available music prize to Walt Disney cartoons.

At the time of its demise, Old Hollywood had settled into sharing a death bed with The English Patient. Distant cousin Broad Way told reporters that Old Hollywood saw something of its past in The English Patient. Even in its last delirious days, Old Hollywood referred to the film as Lawrence of Casablanca.

Nine pieces of gold were left to The English Patient in Old Hollywood's will, which will be contested by real-life moviegoers until Jim Carrey wins an Academy Award. That fortune places Anthony Minghella's film alongside previous best-picture winners with the shortest title (Gigi) and the shortest box office lines (The Last Emperor) in history.

The rest of Old Hollywood's estate falls into the care of New Hollywood (no relation). A check of Monday night memory banks yields this profile of the heir:

New Hollywood is Frances McDormand's mussed hair don't and a puff of shirt tail sneaking out below Billy Bob Thornton's bolero tux. It's as brash as Kevin Spacey's velvet frock and spontaneous as Cuba Gooding Jr. clicking his heels and clutching the money. New Hollywood doesn't care much for movie studios and protocol and it dishes out standing ovations like so many bon-bons from Wolfgang Puck's kitchen.

New Hollywood has a lateral non-power structure, ranging from grand dames estranged from Old Hollywood (Susan Sarandon) to benevolent dictators (Toms Cruise and Hanks) to rising royalty (anyone with a Miramax deal). Essentially, it's a self-monitoring commune. Advice from Old Hollywood is welcomed from those deemed cool enough to hear and smart enough to step aside (absentee Jack Nicholson).

New Hollywood didn't ambitiously pursue its destiny; it was just, like, there, man.

Attempts to reach New Hollywood for comment were unsuccessful. Sources close to the next generation hinted that New Hollywood was in secret negotiations to add Jell-O shooters to the bar list at Trader Vic's.

Services for Old Hollywood will be private and very, very bitter. No details have been released except that Billy Crystal will sing a medley of the year's best eulogies. Family members have requested that moviegoers donate money to the major studios' next wave of expensive mind candy in lieu of flowers.

Rest in peace.