Tonight’s Golden Globes will be a big party on TV, and then several more parties in and around the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But make no mistake: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association remains a punch line in Hollywood despite a clueless article in Friday’s New York Times that tried to rehabilitate them.
The HFPA consists of 83 or 84 people, depending on whom you ask. Not all are foreign, and not all are actual ‘press.’ There is constant infighting among the active members, with massive bickering and politcking. As well, no one knows who among them have actually seen every movie and TV show of the past year.
Even though the HFPA was supposed to be for foreign journalists living in America, there are more than a few that are American but write for extremely obscure publications abroad. Ironically, more respected foreign journalists living in the U.S. who cover entertainment are not part of the HFPA at all.
The Times article made it seem like the HFPA is suddenly the darling of Hollywood. In truth, studio publicity departments despise the HFPA and a form of blackmail that includes constant underwriting by the studios for travel, dining, and gifts.. A studio publicist told me recently how one HFPA member, famous for shnorring, complained that the wine at one sponsored meal after a private screening of a new film wasn’t up to snuff.
The same HFPA member has been accused more than once of reselling tickets to movie premieres and the Golden Globes itself at huge mark ups. That member — whose credentials are a much discussed mystery– also turns up regularly at private Hollywood events, and even last night at a high priced ticketed charity dinner honoring Sean Penn’s work in Haiti (see separate item) with a very young, short skirted date.
Why does everyone put up with this? The simple answer is that the HFPA has become a maekting tool Frankenstein. The studios want the extra accolades in ads for their movies. NBC, the network that carries the Globes, wants a two hour show with lots of star power. The actors are happy to carry home a gold statue, especially if there’s no Oscar or Emmy on their resume for the year. The HFPA has become a monster since NBC started paying them millions every year to license the Golden Globes name.
But all is not so hunky dory, despite the Times’ assertions. First of all, the HFPA is locked in a losing legal battle with both Dick Clark Productions and NBC over who has rights to broadcast the show. Second, both NBC and Dick Clark have had it with the imperious behavior of the group’s odd leadership.
More: A fight occurred this past week over whether to allow an actor whom the HFPA president openly dislikes –capriciously but maybe for darker reasons– onto the broadcast. The network and the production company overrode the HFPA after huge backstage fighting. I will tell you more about that on Monday.
To make matters murkier, this year the money people who own the Hollywood Reporter, Guggenheim Partners, bought Dick Clark Productions. While Variety features a cover this week of an ad paid for the Globes show on NBC, the Reporter has a cover feature story, and eleven inside pages of positive coverage including an improbable double page photo spread of a dozen HFPA members that looks like a parody of Vanity Fair.
Even in the group there’s a feeling expressed by many members that Hollywood has been taken hostage by a group of people with a lot of demands. One of those is a requirement that each of the 84 receive four tickets from the studios to their after parties tonight. The studios capitulte evcen though they must negotiate with the HFPA over getting actual producers of nominated movies into the Globes ceremony.