In the four months since his star turn at the Academy Awards, former Chicago resident Gary Alan Coe has undergone ups and downs fit for a Hollywood drama.

Coe, who was released from prison just days before his unwitting cameo at the Oscars, said he continues to search for a job. He also split from Vickie Vines, whom he was supposed marry this month after Denzel Washington briefly performed a ceremony for them during the A-list awards show. Nevertheless, the 59-year-old remains upbeat.

“Everything else is going good. It’s wonderful being free again and I’m excited about the future,” he recently told the Tribune.

At the time, Coe and Vines said they happened to be riding a Hollywood tour bus that stopped at the Dolby Theatre on Oscars night Feb. 26. The doors opened and they filed in with the other bus passengers as part of a stunt to feature star-struck tourists hobnobbing with celebrities. Coe introduced himself to Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel and the world as “Gary Alan Coe from Chicago.”

He got to kiss Nicole Kidman’s hand and hold Mahershala Ali’s Oscar. Washington pronounced Coe and Vines married in front of the star-studded audience. While he was praised for his everyman charm, Coe’s criminal past also made international headlines.

Coe, who spent his childhood in Memphis and Chicago’s South Shore area before moving to California in the early ’90s, was imprisoned for 20 years under California’s “three-strikes” law after being convicted of petty theft in 1997. His criminal record also includes convictions for grand theft, shoplifting, attempted rape, robbery and burglary. He was released from prison three days before the Oscars.

His newfound fame translated into offers to appear on talk shows, but not many job opportunities. He said he’s gotten some leads from an employment agency in central California, where he now lives. He plans to take some courses at Fresno City College and target driver jobs.

A recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Coe said he’s also looked into working with groups for addicts and gang members. Coe emphasized he’s praying “for the lives of all those that were taken or are being taken with the unnecessary violence in Chicago now. Please, please say that he’s really concerned, he’s praying for all of the individuals involved, it doesn’t matter what color.”

In between prayers for Chicago, Coe experienced some personal drama. Coe and Vines met through her nephew, a young inmate Coe mentored at the California State Prison. Vines told Kimmel she and Coe planned to marry July 18. Coe said they split just days after the Oscars. Attempts to reach Vines were unsuccessful.

The good news for Coe is that he has gotten engaged again. He said he popped the question about a month ago and plans to marry next year. He said he doesn’t plan to publicly reveal his fiancee’s name just yet because he doesn’t “want to jinx that with all the media attention,” but he is willing to have Washington officiate the wedding for real.

“I’ll be contacting him to see if he’s available for sure,” Coe said.


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