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Breakout Oscars star 'Gary from Chicago' is just out of prison

Mahershala Ali, right, takes a selfie with a tourist named Gary while holding his award for best actor in a supporting role for "Moonlight" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) CADA304

Mahershala Ali, right, takes a selfie with a tourist named Gary while holding his award for best actor in a supporting role for "Moonlight" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) CADA304

CHICAGO — Even Hollywood's greatest storytellers couldn't create a tale as wild as the past week of Gary Alan Coe's life.

Coe, whose name was originally misreported as Cole, is now known to the world as "Gary from Chicago" after appearing on the Oscars. And he was released from prison just two days before appearing on the show.

In fact, his release is so recent, he's still listed as an inmate at a California prison.

It's unclear what crimes led to his imprisonment. His attorney, public defender Karen Nash, posted on Facebook that he had received a life sentence in 1997 for stealing perfume.

In California, offenders convicted of multiple crimes can face harsher sentencing. However, voters approved a ballot measure in November that made some inmates eligible for parole once they completed their base terms.

Coe, 59, won his freedom earlier this year and was released Friday, according to Nash's post.

A person who contacted the Tribune on Monday purporting to be Coe said he was holding hands with his fiancee while walking on Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday when he was asked by someone he thought worked with a tour bus company if he would like a free sightseeing tour. He said he had no idea one of the stops would be the Oscars when he boarded the bus.

Coe quickly gained Twitter fame as he clutched his phone while meeting various celebrities, including Nicole Kidman and Ryan Gosling. When he revealed he is engaged, actor Denzel Washington "married" the couple near the stage.

Coe's daughter, Jacqui Williams, 36, said she did not see the initial telecast, but her phone was buzzing with messages early Monday morning.

She said her father was born in Memphis, Tenn., and moved to Chicago at age 12 in 1969. He moved to the West Coast in 1992. She declined to comment about his time in prison.

Coe was supposed to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday, but producers scrapped the bit because they "made the creative decision to focus on other topics" from the Oscars, a Kimmel rep said.

Breakout Oscars star 'Gary from Chicago' is just out of prison 02/28/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 6:49pm]
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