Gold-Plated Globes

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I'm Matt Holzman with The Business Brief, a guide to what's happening in and around the business.

The 66th annual Golden Globes have come and gone...and so have the inevitable stories about what a joke they are. The criticism is legitimate, though I'm not sure about the motivation.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the much-maligned organization that puts on the Globes. According to their website, the HPFA was created in 1943 by a group of journalists led by the Hollywood correspondent for Britain's Daily Mail. In 1945, the group held its first awards gala with a formal banquet at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Going My Way, a musical starring Bing Crosby, won Best Picture. It would also be nominated for ten Oscars and win seven, including Best Picture.

But in the intervening years, the Oscars have managed to maintain their luster, while the Golden Globes have become terribly tarnished.

First of all, the way the Golden Globes became so star-studded in the first place was less than admirable. It was said in the early days you had to be present to win. And then, somewhere along the way, the legitimate foreign correspondents of the HFPA were supplanted by part-time near-journalists from the world's least known publications. HFPA requirements state only that members sell four pieces a year to "legitimate news organizations." But a Google search of the 88 members reveals little about their credentials. The tiny number of voting members is cause for criticism in and of itself – when has so much juice been given to so few who know so little?

The relationship between voters and 'votees' has also been cause for criticism. Golden globe voters often attended catered screenings, and had pictures taken one after another after another with the blankly grinning stars. Gifts and junkets became routine, and on occasion they've clearly crossed the line of propriety.

In 1982, Pia Zadora was awarded a Golden Globe, but only after her producer husband took HFPA members on an expensive trip to Las Vegas.

In 1992, after voters were flown to New York to meet Al Pacino, the star of Scent of a Woman, it unexpectedly won best picture.

In 1999, all 82 members had to return Coach watches sent by Sharon Stone after the gifts become public.

That same year, NBC demanded that the HFPA clean up its act and expand its membership in order to renew the Golden Globe's broadcast contract. To date, the former has clearly has not occurred – membership is still very exclusive – and the latter, well, that's up for debate.

The question is – who really cares? The Globes became big – and the power laid at the feet of these few foreigners – with the tacit agreement the studios and the press.

Complaining that the Golden Globes are bought and paid for is a bit like being upset that a billboard for a movie is bought and paid for. They're both just ads.

But next year around this time, you can bet you'll be hearing tawdry tales of the Golden Globes all over again. Why? Because legitimate journalists can't get pr people to call them back, while HFPA members are wined and dined by the studios. Because legitimate journalists are herded into press junkets, while HFPA members get to have their pictures taken one-on-one with the stars. And while legitimate journalists are always stuck behind the velvet rope, HFPA members have one glorious night where they get to walk the red carpet. Are we – I mean are they – jealous? Maybe a little.

I'd love to know what you think. Send me an e-mail at You can download a podcast of this commentary, share it with a friend, or embed it on your blog with the click of a button from our new media player at For KCRW, I'm Matt Holzman.



Matt Holzman