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The Golden Globes, After a Pause, Plans Annual Party

Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. puts its gala in perspective, but also wants glitz and glamour.

January 17, 2002|TOM O'NEIL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hollywood usually likes nothing better than a chance to celebrate itself, but Sept. 11 prompted a change in perspective that resulted in the cancellation of two kudo-fests--the Latin Grammys and the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards--and a twice-delayed Emmy ceremony that was decidedly subdued.

With Sunday's Golden Globes upon us, however, the mood that prompted the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to forgo tuxes and elegant gowns in favor of "dressy business attire" at the Emmys seems to have swung back in the other direction.

The Globes are not only encouraging stars to put on the glitz this Sunday, but there are no plans to scale back the bacchanalian bash that surrounds the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s serious business of honoring what its 90-odd members decide are the best film and TV accomplishments of 2001--and attracting the largest possible audience for NBC.

The question begs: Is it unseemly for Hollywood to return to partying as usual with bombs still raining on parts of Afghanistan, and, for that matter, with New York and Washington still grieving?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences suspended its banquet-style festivities during World War II, the television and recording academies during Vietnam. None of those awards groups scrapped their parties altogether--indeed, their feasts were merely pushed out of the public eye into post-ceremony celebrations--but times of national crisis have dramatically altered the nature of what the public perceives as a typical show-biz awards ceremony.

Of all the established galas, only the Globes still showcase attendees popping bubbly and chowing down gourmet fare while patting winners on the back before a TV audience of millions.

When stars arrive at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Sunday, they're expected to step out of stretch limos--baubles sparkling--while dressed in the latest Corneliani and Vera Wang. When they settle down at banquet tables inside, nominees can calm their jitters with sips of Moet Chandon Champagne, while on china plates in front of everyone will be artful servings of banana squash, purple potatoes, sea bass sauteed in port wine, and beef tournedos persilles on artichoke and truffles ragout. For dessert, there's a miniature Golden Globe chocolate medallion.

Is it time to put a stop to this extravagance?

"No!" declares Entertainment Weekly awards writer Dave Karger. "The glitzy fashions, wild antics and dirty jokes while champagne flows--they're all key parts of the Golden Globes' character. This is Hollywood's annual family reunion--that one time when the film and TV people all get together and do what most families do. They have a lavish dinner, a big party, and, because TV cameras are there, we're all invited."

"The circus atmosphere is one of the reasons that people love the Globes," says "Good Morning America's" movie critic, Joel Siegel. "The Globes acknowledge with a wink what we all know--that, to some extent, these award shows are ridiculous. The Globes are set up in a way that tells us that they're in on the joke."

But is such a fancy frat party appropriate after Sept. 11? "The show must go on," insists Good Housekeeping etiquette expert Peggy Post. "We must be respectful of people's feelings, yes--we're at war and people are still stunned--but we have to carry on with our lives and some gaiety and excitement are fine."

In a letter appearing in this year's official Globes program, Dagmar Dunleavy, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., asks attendees "to pause and remember those whose light was extinguished on Sept. 11th," but stresses that the Globes' starlight will not be dimmed.

"When life gets dreadful, there's nothing more wonderful than getting a few hours of reprieve to have some fun," she says. "Just don't go crazy and cross a line," warns manners guru Post.

*

But crazy is just what the Globes have been in years past. Jack Nicholson never mooned anybody at the Oscars, but when he accepted a best-actor trophy for "As Good as It Gets" in 1998, he thrust his derriere at the audience (while keeping his trousers up) and pretended to talk out of his bottom end. Decades earlier Joan Crawford shocked a Globes audience when she did a Marilyn Monroe-style shoulder jiggle on stage, purring, "I'll show a pair of golden globes!" The joke is remembered as such a classic in Globe lore that Bette Midler repeated it 20 years later.

The ceremony began in the mid-1940s as a stuffy affair presided over by HFPA members who insisted upon hogging the spotlight and dispensing the statuettes themselves. By 1958, however, the bored audience mutinied. Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., lifted their cocktails and cigarettes in the air like sabers and ambushed the stage where they passed out the rest of the trophies with hilarious efficiency. Their antics were such a hit that HFPA leaders invited them back the next year to do it again.

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