The Golden Globes ritual this Sunday may prompt the usual groans in some circles, but it will also trigger some elegant paydays.
Hollywood always seems at once apologetic and celebratory about the Globes, but the 87 journalists who annually cast their votes are smiling, not apologizing. That’s because they’re allegedly divvying up millions of dollars to reward their participation in one of the industry’s most enduring business schemes.
A sprawling exposé in the Los Angeles Times greets this weekend’s Globes – a probe that details the paydays scored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association fraternity in its annual upstaging of the Oscars. Globes voters, we are told, are paid an additional $2.15 million above and beyond their journalistic salaries (if any) to serve on various association “committees.”
Other perks come their way including glitzy overseas trips donated by producing entities. Some voters may be content to watch a series like Emily in Paris on their home screens, for example, while members of the Foreign Press Association were among those flown to the location, checking into the five-star Peninsula.
To Times investigators, the whole gambit conveys a scent of “ethical lapses and self dealing.” Indeed, the organization regularly fights court battles against hopeful applicants who would like to join the party (they always lose).
The membership criteria can be confusing. While some have legitimate reporting credentials, the ranks also include a sprinkling of occasional actors, extras or producers whose backgrounds seem geographically fluid: An India-born member represents Singapore, while three American members have variously repped China, Mexico and Germany. There are no Black members.
“Who is really behind he Globes?” demands the Times banner. The answer, of course, is NBC, which in 2018 agreed to pay $60 million for broadcast rights. But pivotal support also stems from Hollywood’s celebrity community, which fuels the awards machine as well as zealously attending the dinner celebrations (except during pandemics). The cost of hiring a PR consultant to pilot a campaign may start at $45,000, plus bonuses of $20,000 if a nomination is secured and another $30,000 for a winner.
Now for full disclosure: I have attended several Globes dinners over the years (my studio bought the table) and had a great time for all the obvious reasons: Everyone shows up and almost everyone gets swackered. The tension that grips Oscar events is absent – the ferocious security presence and the TV cameras hovering over every conversation. The Globes represent a throwback to the early Oscar years – the sort of pre-Prohibition “what-can-we-get-away-with” naughtiness. At the Oscars you may encounter Tom Hanks; at the Globes you’re looking for Bugsy Siegel.
This year, as in years past, a cloud of litigation hovers over the Globes. A suit filed by a Norwegian journalist named Kjersti Flaa charged the group with fostering “a culture of corruption.” She lost in court but appeals still lurk. A decade earlier, a suit filed by the association’s longtime publicist, Michael Russell, alleged that members accepted money and gifts in exchange for votes. The association countersued and all claims were settled. The association, meanwhile, has stepped up its contributions to groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists and the USC Cinema School.
At a moment when everything in Hollywood is in turmoil, the sheer presence of a staple like the Globes may itself seem re-assuring this weekend. Tina Fey will co-host from the Rainbow Room in New York, Amy Poehler from the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, exchanging quips to virtual viewers some of whom may actually have a stake in the proceedings. As a television event, the Globes’ audience has held at between 18 million-20 million viewers, stronger than the Emmys and closing the gap with the Oscars (the latter are delayed until April 25 this year).
Winning a Globe may not sell box office seats this year, but it will still boost careers and enhance celebrity clout. As such, it will justify the hefty investments of ego and money.
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