Org orders promotional gift returned

On Jan. 23, there’s a chance the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. will hand a Golden Globe to Sharon Stone. In the meantime, the org has already handed over something else to her: the expensive watches that were sent to the 82 members as a gift.

HFPA president Helmut Voss said he ordered the Coach watches returned to Stone on Dec. 13, the same day he learned they’d been sent. The HFPA prexy estimates from ads he’s seen that the timepieces were worth between $295 and $395 each.

“This watch was way, way, way beyond the edge of the envelope as far as promotional considerations, like T-shirts,” said Voss. “We were touched by her generosity, but this is definitely a no-no for a group like ours that wants to protect the integrity of its award.”

HFPA member Marianne Ruuth described the watch as “pretty. I didn’t know it was expensive.” The HFPA’s former president added that Stone’s gift-giving gesture “was a nice thing, well-meant. But we are a little careful with certain gifts or parties because people are very quick to criticize and think it would affect the voting. So rather than take any chances, we’d rather return.”

Voss said the effort to collect the watches from the membership, some of whom were out of town, “put a lot of stress on our office at a time when we could least afford it. But it had to be done.”

Stone’s publicist, Cheryl Maisel, said the watches were actually sent by USA Films, which released “The Muse,” for which Stone received a Golden Globe nom Monday.

According to a USA Films spokesman, the watches were provided free to the studio by Coach to be sent on Stone’s behalf, and it was “an honest mistake. We did not realize the value of the watches exceeded any HFPA guidelines.”

Other sources, however, indicate that the watches were sent at Stone’s request.

One gift the HFPA membership is not required to return is a $35 cell phone presented as a promotional item by Fine Line for “Simpatico,” which was given with a card from stars Stone, Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte.

Voss said he allowed HFPA members to keep the phones, but ordered that the one month-service that came with it to be canceled. He also sent a letter advising members who are “uncomfortable about accepting this gag present” to send them to HFPA office and they would be returned to New Line. He estimates the number returned at roughly two dozen.

“Hardly a day goes by without one of these stupid crises arising,” Voss said.

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