Friendly Globes banquet unhooks all the big stars

It really wasn’t all that long ago that people who weren’t paying close attention assumed that the Golden Globe Awards had something to do with National Geographic, or the environmental movement.

At best, they were the poor man’s Oscars. They looked pretty good on a resume’ and on a mantel, but winning one didn’t necessarily do much to help you get work. “But I won a Golden Globe…” was right up there with “But I own a beach house across from the nuclear plant…” in terms of building clout.

That’s started to change over the course of the past decade. As the Globes turn 54 this year, the awards have gone from being an afterthought to a solid indicator of a film’s Academy Award prospects to a legitimate and respected honor in its own right for both the film and television industries.

The best indication that the Golden Globes have arrived is the fact that people really, really want to attend them and really, really care about where they sit. Not only do stars want to be seen there, they want to be seen sitting in good seats.

“That’s the good news and the bad news,” says Gene Weed, who has served as producer-director of the Golden Gobes telecast since 1982.

“We’re thrilled that nearly all of the nominees attend now, and that just about everyone else in the business wants to be there. Unfortunately, all of them want to sit in the one pit area where all of the attention is focused. But only maybe 350 people can go in there out of a room that seats 1,200. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about figuring that out.”

Dick Clark, whose Burbank production company has handled the Globes since 1982, is likewise relieved that he doesn’t need to fill out the seating chart.

“Oh please, I have enough to worry about,” Clark says.

So who is responsible for the seating on Golden Globe night? No one seems inclined to divulge it. Perhaps it’s best left unsaid, in the name of safety and privacy.

“But you know why everyone wants to be there?” Weed asks. “Because they really have fun. More than any other awards show, it’s like a party. It’s the only gathering every year of motion picture and television people in the same room in a common celebration and people enjoy themselves.”

The amount of work that goes into making a smooth-running Globecast, however, is something less than fun and games. From the day the nominations are announced, it’s a warp-speed task of planning and preparation and ego stroking that proves a delicate balancing act for all involved. It’s 16-hour workdays blending into 16-hour work-days, Weed says.

“Our task is pretty monumental,” acknowledges Weed. “Just putting the 12 to 14-minute video package together for the De Mille Award career achievement tribute, which we’re giving this year to Dustin Hoffman, takes an enormous investment of energy. You need to out all of the right elements into the clips and select all of the right people to work together in presenting it to him.”

The entire enterprise is contingent on vast amounts of teamwork, adds Clark. “Any awards show needs the im-maculate attention of several hundred people all doing their job well at the same time, or it disintegrates,” he says. “The pressure is in that it’s live.”

Enlisting a group of presenters creates a series of challenges all its own, Weed says. Everyone seems to have their own idea of which award he or she should be presenting, and sometimes it clashes with what’s needed. Salving egos is a sizeable part of the task. And it doesn’t help that much of the legwork occurs over the holidays.

“You want to be open to everyone’s needs and wants and desires, and we fulfill those as much as we can,” Weed stresses.

“But we can only offer what we can offer. You sometimes have to tell people a slot isn’t available. I mean, everyone would like to hand out the motion picture of the year award, including me. But I’m too busy in the (production) truck at that moment.”

Proper preparation is the key to everything working, Weed notes, adding with pride that no Globecast has ever run badly on his watch. Surprises, however, inevitably always jump into the mix.

There was the time, for instance, when there was a four-way tie in a category, making it tough not only to capture each nominee striding to the podium but in sweating out four acceptance speeches for a single award.

“That makes it difficult for the acceptance to come in at 45 seconds,” Weed says. “But in all of the years I’ve been doing the Golden Globes, we’ve only had to play someone off (strike up the band to end an acceptance) two times. We hate to do it. It’s embarrassing to them and to us.”

More common than snags are what Weed calls “wonderful bonuses” that weren’t expected, like the year Charlton Heston presented Anthony Quinn the De Mille Award and joined him for an impromptu “Zorba the Greek”-style dance, or the night that Laurence Olivier walked into a busy after-show party and the room “fell instantly silent,” Weed recalls.

“Everyone just stood up and gave a spontaneous standing ovation for this man who had given the acting profession so much,” he adds. “It was pure magic.”

Clark feels that same magic every year he’s involved in the Globes.

“What amazes me more than anything is that this show embodies the most extraordinary gathering of power and fame that you’ll ever run into,” Clark believes. “All of the people who control the film and TV industries are right there in that one room. And yet the tone is totally informal, just a bunch of folks sitting around having dinner, like the old days when they held the Oscars in a hotel.”

Not that Clark is comparing the Golden Globes to the almighty Oscars.

“The Oscars are the big daddy and always will be,” Clark says. “But the Golden Globes are still a wonderful way to pay tribute as well as an important commercial message for the industry. They’re not just the also-rans but a le-gitimate stamp of approval unto themselves now. You can see that now in the hundreds of trade and consumer ads that now promote Golden Globe nominations.”

Yes, insists Weed, people actually dream now of attending the Golden Globe Awards.

“It’s the best opportunity the industry has to sit down and taste Hollywood at its very best,” Weed says.

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