‘Gary From Chicago’ Spent 20 Years in Prison Just Before Meeting Hollywood’s A-List at Oscars

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Tourist Gary Alan Coe, who was brought into the Oscars as a surprise, meets with best supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali at the 89th Oscars on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood. (Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

A trip to the Oscars would be cool almost any day of the week. But doing that days after being released from decades in prison? That’s what happened to the Oscars’ newest viral sensation, Gary Alan Coe, better known as “Gary From Chicago.”

Coe, 59, and his fiancee, Vickie Vines, were the first of a dozen or so unsuspecting tourists to enter the Dolby Theatre while the Oscars were in progress.

“I spent this afternoon laughing and crying with Gary and Vicky,” public defender Karen Nash posted Monday on Facebook. “For those of you who missed it, I spent years working on Gary’s case. He got a life sentence for stealing perfume in 1997, and we finally won release this year. He got out on Friday, and was sight seeing with his lovely fiancé Vicky. If you watched the Oscars, you know the rest.”

The state’s inmate locator, which still lists Coe as a resident of the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison at Corcoran, notes Oct. 20, 1994, as his original prison admission date. Other than Nash’s statement, details of the Chicago native’s offenses are unclear, but a life sentence would imply some sort of three-strikes conviction.

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