BAFTA kudofest glams up staid Blighty


LONDON — As a refugee from Los Angeles, I can confess to missing only two aspects of L.A. culture: Hollywood glamour and Mexican food. While I don’t think my fellow residents of the United Kingdom share my craving for an El Cholo chicken tostadita, they seem to know too well that there’s a shortage of old-fashioned showbiz glitz, glam and glitter.

On BBC’s London “Drivetime” show a few days before the Golden Globes, the hosts Sonia Deol and Henry Bonsu asked me plaintively, “We don’t do glamour well here in the U.K., do we? Why is that?”

My list of examples to counter their assertion was painfully short. I blurted out, “Well, the BAFTA Awards are great!” And switched back to the pleasures and curiosities of the Globes bash.

I realized after the interview that their question is a troubling one. I am absolutely starving for the full course menu of showbiz lights, cameras and pearly whites that BAFTA night will deliver.

The source of my optimism? Last year, Elton John was glad-handing the crush of fans in front of the Odeon Theater as cameras flashed at the sight of the awards show arrivals. Glamour pros like Tom Hanks, Kate Winslet, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson lit up the red carpet.

Inside, Stephen Fry was the ultimate host: elegant, witty, nasty and quick with a quip. Hugh Grant was hilarious. Albert Finney was, as always, brilliant.

After-parties featured Mick Jagger hanging out with the hoi polloi, and Hawn tripping the light fantastic with Geoffrey Rush at the Miramax bash. It’s that kind of glamour that’s largely M.I.A. in the U.K.

I don’t chalk it up, as some local pundits have done, to the traditional British distaste for self-promotion. They promote themselves to one another quite spectacularly, every day, in every publication and on every talkshow and the sides of the red buses. But they seem to have lost the plot, as they say, when it comes to showing off their wares to the world.

The James Bond XX launch at Pinewood Studios last month was a good example of Hollywood vs. London, game point to the West Coast. They had the official Sexiest Man in the World, Pierce Brosnan; Halle Berry, one of the most beautiful women on the planet; three young hot and hip co-stars; Aston Martins and Jaguars — and you know what? They presented the whole shebang as if it were just another day on the set. The producers seemed almost embarrassed to be asking dozens of journalists to come and be part of history in the making for the most exciting and glamorous movie franchise ever created.

If it were the kickoff for a new season of O’Neill at the Haymarket, I could understand the demure, low-key approach, but this is the series that gave us Pussy Galore! Can we have some fun, please?

They just haven’t quite figured out how to dress up an event and show off their solid-gold film and stage stars. God knows they’ve got them. The acting awards races are filled with the names Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Helen Mirren, Colin Firth, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, et al.

Perhaps they just get all twittery when it’s time for their global close-up. Maybe it’s some buried insecurity about having to compete with the Hollywoodites, who, admittedly, have written the book on hustle, flesh and flash. But to quote that great American “Producer” Max Bialystock, “When you got it, flaunt it.”

Thank God for the BAFTAs. They’ve got it and they flaunt it. If they can whip up a spicy chimichanga after the gongs are handed out, I’ll be set for another year.

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