Hollywood's Globe Awards Are More Spin Than Substance
By Sharon Waxman
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 6 1996; Page D01
The Washington Post
LOS ANGELES -- When the Golden Globe nominations are
announced later this month, few people will know that
the power behind the picks is a group called the
Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Fewer still will
know that most of its 88 active members are not
full-time journalists, but part-time freelancers for
small publications in places like Lithuania and
Bangladesh, and include a college professor, a retired
engineer, a man who runs an "auto referral service," and
another who until recently sold appliances in Burbank.
Yet this small group, many of whose members are in their
retirement years, wields an extraordinary kind of power.
Since the awards ceremony -- which draws an impressively
star-studded crowd -- started being tele vised regularly
in the late 1980s, it has become a major publicity tool
for Hollywood studios, with prizes touted in ads all
over the country. Furthermore, the Globes, which are
award ed in January, have become a kind of advance team
for the bigger, brassier Oscars.
But while the Academy Awards are selected by more than
5,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences, the Globes are picked by a few dozen
movie lovers who enjoy an endless stream of gifts
(silver money clips for last year's "Casino," yellow
bomber jackets for "Apollo 13"), hotel rooms and free
meals from major studios. Similarly, the in come
generated for the HFPA by the telecast (next year's will
be Jan. 19) provides generously for its members -- air
fare to out-of-town promotional trips, monthly lunches
at the Beverly Hilton, $200 annual subscriptions to the
Hollywood Report er and expense-paid trips to film fes
Members don't have to work too hard at their journalism.
Four articles a year are required -- be they long,
cogent analyses or short blurbs taken from transcripts
of press conferences with movie stars -- to maintain
active membership in the HFPA. Yet few representatives
of major foreign publications -- like the Times of
London or Le Monde in France -- are admitted to the
group. Indeed, a correspondent for Le Monde said her
application for membership has been rejected several
The HFPA's cozy relationship with the studios and stars
it confers awards on, and the dubious journalistic
credentials of many of its members, have been an open
secret in Hollywood for years. But few are willing to
talk about it on the record. The studios are loath to
jeopardize the marketing tool they have found in the
Golden Globes, while actors, directors and producers are
afraid of jeopardizing their chances at winning.
But judging from internal documents made available to
The Washington Post and more than four dozen interviews
with current and former HFPA members, press agents and
studio executives, the system is at best a mutual
admiration society. At worst, according to critics, it's
another way in which the public is fooled -- into
believing that a Golden Globe is a symbol of real merit,
and that it is bestowed by qualified, impartial critics
without fear or favor.
"This is a racket that does more harm than good," says
Howard Suber, co-chair of the film production program at
the University of California at Los Angeles. "There are
millions of people who watch and think this is something
other than a corrupt little band. They think it means
something, and of course it doesn't."
Even one HFPA member expressed similar concerns in an
internal memo in 1994. "The `fuse' of the legal `bomb'
is burning," wrote Ika Panajotovic, questioning the
HFPA's membership and voting standards. "If any of the
major studios call `fault' on the HFPA for various
favors to certain studios, their films or countries, our
association could have a huge lawsuit, lose its
credibility and, possibly, its legal existence."
Some members of the HFPA are well-respected foreign
entertainment journalists, like Alessandra Venezia, who
writes for Italy's weekly Panorama and the daily
L'Unita, and Scott Orlin, who writes for Germany's
But at least 30 of the 88 listed in the HFPA's
membership book are freelance writers for obscure
publications in such minuscule markets for American
films as Lithuania, Bangladesh and Egypt. For them,
journalism is a part-time hobby. Outgoing HFPA President
Aida Takla O'Reilly is a film professor at Cal State,
Los Angeles, and chair of the pan-African studies
department. Mahfouz Doss, another board member, made his
living as an engineer until 1978, and has lived mainly
off his investments since then. "I write about two dozen
articles a year" for Egyptian newspapers, he says. Tony
Ponce, listed as a writer for Costa Rican and Czech
publications, has a marketing company and runs an "auto
referral service," a business he declined to define.
Munawar Hosain, from Bangladesh, recently left his job
selling appliances at a Burbank Circuit City for another
in "TV production," according to a cousin. Even
Panajotovic identifies himself as a lawyer, director and
producer, and only when prodded says that he is also a
journalist. "I am a PR writer. I am everything," he
says. "I am in the motion picture business."
Many other members are retired (three members died this
year, several are ill, and there are two active members
in their nineties), having joined the 54-year-old
organization decades ago. In addition to the four
articles or tapes per year every member must produce to
maintain active status in the organization, each must
provide six articles to the Motion Picture Association
of America to qualify to vote on the Golden Globes and
receive promotional material from the studios.
But not all do. This year three people -- Dagmar
Dunlevy, Howard Lucraft and Douglas Thompson -- were
dropped from the MPAA's list of active members because
they did not produce even four articles. Two of them
were reinstated for 1997, but Lucraft again did not
qualify, nor did active members Frances Jeane Appel and
Maureen Dragone. O'Reilly herself was dropped from the
MPAA's list of eligible voters in 1990 for the same
So how many of the HFPA's 88 active members actually
vote on the awards? Neither the HFPA nor Ernst & Young,
the accounting firm that tallies the votes, would say.
But internal HFPA documents show that in 1994, only 63
of the 85 then-active members were eligible to vote on
an awards-related matter.
"The HFPA has about 25 very good, important journalists
-- wonderful, good writers," says Mirjana Van Blaricom,
who was HFPA president in 1992 and 1993 and was
previously on its accreditation committee. The rest, she
says, "may write four or even five articles [a year]. I
don't think that makes them journalists." Van Blaricom
was suspended from the HFPA for having sent members
videotapes of a movie from her native Yugoslavia to
consider for an award; she recently dropped a suit
against the association for harassment, unprofessional
conduct and restraint of trade. Van Blaricom has also
started a rival organization, the International Press
"I'm not going to respond to anything Mirjana Van
Blaricom said," said the HFPA's current president, Phil
Berk, who works for a South African syndicate, the Argus
Group. But studio publicists support Van Blaricom's
contention that fewer than half of the HFPA's members
generally attend the screenings and news conferences set
up for them. Those who do go to news conferences are
treated with unusual deference; movie stars must pose
for photographs with every member of the association
after the question-and-answer period. It is one of the
group's "requirements," publicists say.
In 1993 director Rob Reiner said there was something
"unkosher" about all this. "The main thrust seems to be
an elaborate scheme to have their pictures taken with
you," the New York Times quoted him as saying. "Sure I
want to promote my movie, but I don't want to waste my
time with people who are just pushing for a photo op."
Still, Reiner has since given two press conferences to
the HFPA to promote subsequent films. He declined to
comment for this article.
O'Reilly does not deny that many members of the HFPA
have day jobs, but says it is the only way for them to
make ends meet. "There's nothing wrong with that," she
says. "To make them out as not being journalists anymore
is erroneous." The personal photo sessions are done so
that members can prove to their editors that they did
not fabricate their interviews with movie stars, she
says. No one, however, is required to provide clippings
to show that the interviews were later published.
An NBC spokeswoman issued a statement that said, in
part: "The Golden Globe Awards presentations have been a
favorite among viewers for many years. . . . NBC has
been pleased with Dick Clark Productions and the
Hollywood Foreign Press Association who produce the show
for the network."
In 1981, members of the HFPA were flown to Las Vegas for
a few days of entertainment and fun as guests of
Meshulam Riklis, a producer and businessman. At the
time, Riklis was married to Pia Zadora, an actress as
well known for her wealthy husband as for her talent. A
few weeks later, Zadora won the Golden Globe Award for
"new female star of the year" for her work in an
eminently forgettable flop called "Butterfly."
Al Pacino won the best-actor award for "Scent of a
Woman" in 1993, shortly after HFPA members had flown to
New York on a promotional trip for the movie that
included interviews with him. Although it is not clear
whether the HFPA or the studio paid for the trip, the
coincidence caused the association considerable
embarrassment at the time.
While these incidents are well known in the industry,
members of the HFPA and even the embittered Van Blaricom
say the organization is not influenced by gifts or trips
its members receive. "Can someone convince you that an
actor is good when he's not? To me it's unthinkable,"
says Venezia, the Italian journalist. "Do you think if
you invite me to dinner I will vote for you? I would be
a really bad journalist or critic if I did."
But it is also true that studios and some stars shower
the HFPA members with gifts and personal attention in an
attempt to curry favor. Sharon Stone, known as a good
friend of the association, sent a handwritten thank-you
note to each member after her news conference to promote
the opening of "Casino." She later won the best-actress
award for her performance as a gangster's moll. One
industry professional attending the ceremony watched as
two HFPA members approached the film's publicist as the
award was announced. "You see, we told you it was going
to happen," she heard them say.
Some studios, such as Twentieth Century Fox, hold annual
dinners or other events in the group's honor around the
end of the year. Others send fruit baskets and
film-related trinkets -- some valuable, like the silver
money clip -- around nomination and voting time.
Pre-nomination screenings are always accompanied by
lunch or dinner.
But even outside awards season, the benefits of
membership in the HFPA are substantial. The studios hold
exclusive HFPA screenings and news conferences with
directors and stars for every major film; members who
have not attended are entitled to transcripts of the
interview sessions. The association usually pays air
fare to out-of-town promotional events, while the
studios usually pay for lodging. While most publicity
events take place in Hollywood, some junkets are staged
in locations related to the movie (Houston for "Apollo
13," San Francisco for "Escape From Alcatraz") -- and
include interviews with the stars and director. (While
it is common for foreign journalists or writers for
small domestic publications to accept travel and lodging
from studios, most major news organizations bar such
Internal HFPA financial documents show that the
association invites its members to monthly luncheons at
the Beverly Hilton at an average cost of about $5,000
per outing. It also pays for air fare, hotels and meals
when members attend film festivals abroad and even pays
for tickets to local plays. The nonprofit, tax-exempt
organization also donates money to charities and arts
organizations -- last year it gave to the American Film
Institute, the American Foundation for AIDS Research
(which Sharon Stone chairs) and the Sundance Film
Festival. All of this is paid for by the NBC telecast of
the Golden Globes, which earns the association
approximately $700,000, according to Van Blaricom. NBC
entered into a five-year agreement to broadcast the
awards last January, when 18 million Americans tuned in;
TBS aired the ceremony in previous years.
With perks like these, it's a wonder that the
association is not flooded with new members every year.
But the HFPA accepts no more than five new members
annually, and any member can veto a newcomer's
application in voting done by secret ballot.
"I tried to apply four or five times," says Claudine
Mulard, a full-time correspondent for Le Monde. Her
application "was accepted, there was a vote, and I don't
know what happened. They send you a polite letter [of
rejection], but they don't tell you anything."
Jeff Hayward, correspondent for the New Zealand Herald,
the country's largest daily, wrote a letter of protest
to the association after his application was rejected in
1994 for the second time. "You represent foreign
correspondents in Hollywood as a whole, yet you act like
a clique, which is hardly ethical," the letter read. "I
feel you should be a truly professional organization
open to all who legitimately meet the criteria of being
a member of the Hollywood foreign press, or you should
not exist at all."
Indeed, the association's practices have earned it the
derision of many respected journalists. "I didn't want
to be involved in an organization which had such a
terrible reputation," says Joan Goodman, who writes for
several British and American newspapers and magazines
and was solicited to join the HFPA in the 1980s. "Years
ago a publicist blatantly said to me, `If you would join
Hollywood Foreign Press, I could count on you to vote
for my guy for an award.' We laughed, but he meant it
quite seriously, I'm sure."
The Big Picture
Here in Hollywood, many say the Golden Globe Awards are
but a symptom of the collaborative relationship between
the media and the entertainment industry, in which
journalists are not independent arbiters but are
considered part of the promotional process. And that is
doubly true for the HFPA.
"If there is a problem with the HFPA, it's because it is
a mirror image of how Hollywood treats the press," says
Michael Bygrave, a veteran entertainment writer for
London's Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. "It is
the fault of the industry, which has never, and will
never, admit that the press has any role as an
independent force or watchdog. They regard the press
like rich people regard their butlers -- they do
everything they can to manipulate and control it."
But Suber, the film professor, believes there is
something more subversive at work -- the willing
participation of a network and the major studios in a
"The corruption is the network that puts it on and
presents it as major event. The corruption comes from
the studios that help make it a major event by turning
out the stars," he observes. "For some pipsqueak band of
88 stringers who don't represent anything" to hold the
awards, he says, "is damaging to any kind of fair
assessment of the importance of film."
@CAPTION: Sharon Stone thanked each member of the
Hollywood Foreign Press Association after a news
conference to promote "Casino." They later gave her a
Golden Globe award.
@CAPTION: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's
Golden Globe Award.
© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company
Yeah . . . you could replace GA with Academy Awards, and the headline
would still be accurate.
=In <32a856b4...@news.mindspring.com> smith...@mindspring.com
=(Craig R Smith) writes:
=>This is from Friday's Washington Post. Any comments?
=> FOOL'S GOLD
=> Hollywood's Globe Awards Are More Spin Than Substance
So, what else is new. This was an interesting article, but left out much
earlier abuses. In fact, the FCC forced the Golden Globes off the air in
the seventies because of similar problems. They found proof that winners
were chosen on the basis of their agreement to attend the awards (and help
the ratings) rather than any secret ballot.
I worked for TBS when they picked up the awards. At the time, we viewed
it as a joke. In Hollywood, the questionable freelance status of many of
the members, earned the GG's the title the "Waiter Awards," since rumor
had it that most voting members at the time were actually waiters. The
production picked up when TBS brought in Dick Clark to produce (a real
gent, in my book), but the awards are still highly questionable. But--who
does it hurt?
Frank Miller, ASGTPR #18
". . . sucking the sweat off his god's hairy cheek."
>So, what else is new. This was an interesting article, but left out much
>earlier abuses. In fact, the FCC forced the Golden Globes off the air in
>the seventies because of similar problems. They found proof that winners
>were chosen on the basis of their agreement to attend the awards (and help
>the ratings) rather than any secret ballot.
>production picked up when TBS brought in Dick Clark to produce (a real
>gent, in my book), but the awards are still highly questionable.
Recognize it as a mere "made for tv" event, the way ... by definition ... most
stuff gets ON tv. E.g., the most important guy at any NFL for major college
game isn't the QB, the referee, the umpire ... it's that guy in the white striped
jacket on the sideline, the one with the headset on, the one who crosses his
arms everytime there's a timeout on tv ... that's why folks in the stadium are
sometimes confused by a 120 second halt to the action between the 3rd and
With the possible exception of the Oscars ... let's put it this way: have you
ever noticed how many times when the last of the (songs)(plays)(records)
nominated for the award is performed immediately before it's announced as the
The public tends to view Beauty Contests and Awards Shows, they're
relatively cheap to produce, they provide good promotion for the
But for the most part, they're about as legit as wrestling and ... dare I say it,
(dare)(dare) professional boxing. As a Gentleman of Long Tenure in the
fisticuffs bidness put it, "Did you ever notice how many of the major title
turn-overs happen OUTSIDE the United States, in Japan, the Phillippines,
Zaire, etc. That keeps the fix out of the hands of a Federal Grand Jury."
Total agreement with your comments on Dick Clark: I did legal work for a
couple projects he was involved in ... good guy. I recall talking with his
then-live-in (seems I recall they've gotten married since ...) girlfriend, we were
laughing about the old disk jockey lamet ... "there's nothing lower than a Grown
Man playing with a Victrola ... "... she says "...you wouldn't believe the
number of days when that's the first thing Dick says when he gets home!"
Dick was doing what seemed like a half-dozen different weekend radio shows
back then ... with a syndicated show like that, he'd simply record the intros
and outros, and a tech would splice it together. A three hour show would take
an hour or two to get as perfect as it needed to be.
And Lord, to have that guy's genes! Saw him a few years ago, still looked
I made a passing reference to the above in a news story last year and got
a SCATHING letter back from Mr. Riklis saying the above account was a
complete lie and that the Hollywood Foreign Press was just too gutless to
confront the journalists who originally reported it. He then said that if
I ever wrote anything like that again, he would sue me, because although
they were no longer married, he still loved his Pia with all his heart.
> In a previous article, can...@onramp.net (Dan Cutrer) says:
> [speaking about Dick Clark]
> >And Lord, to have that guy's genes! Saw him a few years ago, still looked
> Oh, please -- that tight li'l face has "lift" written all over it! He
> *used* to look pretty good, but now he's got that distincetive Carol Burnett/
> Mary Tyler Moore look.
> "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I
> only know that people call me a feminist whenver I express sentiments that
> differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." Rebecca West, 1913
This brings up an interesting (to me, anyway) question: am I the only one
who has to look twice at a photo to figure out if it's Carol or Mary? I
swear, I have given up on telling them apart at first glance anymore. And
I think they both used to be pretty (esp. MTM), but now they just look
like incredibly lifelike Muppets.
Jeremy, who will be putting on a little puppet show of his own very soon.
"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies." -Gore Vidal
You must have seen him after I did then. Heck, Dick would be in his
late 60's, early 70's, he's entitled!
I don't watch much commercial tv; saw what looked like Frank Gifford on
Monday Night Football a few weeks ago. Now THAT'S a tight face lift!
Carol has red hair.
>> On Sun, 8 Dec 1996, Patricia Steward wrote:
>> > In a previous article, can...@onramp.net (Dan Cutrer) says:
>> > >
>> > [speaking about Dick Clark]
>> > >And Lord, to have that guy's genes! Saw him a few years ago, still looked
>> > >great!
>> > Oh, please -- that tight li'l face has "lift" written all over it! He
>> > *used* to look pretty good, but now he's got that distincetive Carol Burnett/
>> > Mary Tyler Moore look.
>> > --
>> > "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I
>> > only know that people call me a feminist whenver I express sentiments that
>> > differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." Rebecca West, 1913
>> This brings up an interesting (to me, anyway) question: am I the only one
>> who has to look twice at a photo to figure out if it's Carol or Mary? I
>> swear, I have given up on telling them apart at first glance anymore. And
>> I think they both used to be pretty (esp. MTM), but now they just look
>> like incredibly lifelike Muppets.
>> Jeremy, who will be putting on a little puppet show of his own very soon.
>> ASGTPR #98
>> "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies." -Gore Vidal
> Carol is the one with the chin implant. Mary has the immovable
Didn't Carol have her overbite removed?
> >[speaking about Dick Clark]
> >Oh, please -- that tight li'l face has "lift" written all over it! He
> >*used* to look pretty good, but now he's got that distincetive Carol Burnett/
> >Mary Tyler Moore look.
......................oh yes..........we call that the "sock puppet" look.....
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