Revels without a pause

H'wood turns the tables on the Globes

For years, the Golden Globe Awards were accused of exploiting Hollywood celebrities. Now Hollywood celebs may be exploiting the Golden Globes.

The kudocast, which airs Monday, Jan. 16 on NBC, has spread from an intimate, loosey-goosey, three-hour affair into the centerpiece of five days of showbiz parties hosted by agencies, studios and other kudos orgs. All of them have jockeyed for position in order to piggyback onto an awards show that was not taken seriously even a few years ago.

The result is a chaotic maze of cocktail-stops that will have showbizzers rushing among too many social obligations. In the process, the whirl will confirm that the most powerful person in Hollywood is the man who can limit party attendance or even shut down a fete: the fire marshal.

As with most showbiz events, Globes party hosts’ motives include tubthumping, ego-stroking and money-making. Studios and agencies want to pat filmmakers on the back (and, in the process, promote their Oscar chances). It’s an opportunity to curry talent, outdo rivals and remind the world: “We’re key players in this year’s kudos race!”

Celebrities use the event to tout upcoming film and TV projects, and to further their own Oscar hopes.

Part of the logic behind the pre-, as opposed to the post-, party is that, as one studio honcho explained, “everyone’s still a winner.”

Adding to the frenzy is the fact that other kudos orgs and philanthropic groups also schedule events the same week, figuring that the stars are in town, so it’s a good time to grab ’em.

Piggy-backing on all these piggy-backers are the media, ever anxious to tap into the public’s endless thirst for celebrity culture.

In a sense, the Globes, handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., are a victim of their own success.

When the awards were broadcast on cable, they inspired few parties. But after their shift to NBC in 1996, ratings rose and studios realized they were a key stop during awards season, providing a chance to tout films when Oscar voters had ballots in hand.

The Beverly Hilton was the perfect venue. The 1,200-seat ballroom was intimate enough to create a sometimes wild (but never too wild) atmosphere, as well as a demand for tickets. And the hotel offered four restaurants for post-show parties, allowing party-hoppers to rub elbows with colleagues without having to drive all over town.

But as the Hilton after-parties grew more crowded, the parties spread to other L.A. locations. Then they branched out to other nights.

Now the five days of Globe-centric festivities officially kick off on Friday, Jan. 13. With stars in town, the American Film Institute will host its annual luncheon to honor notable film and TV works of the past year. That evening, the first-ever GQ and American Cinematheque bash will be held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire (stars will be supplied courtesy of CAA).

On Saturday, ICM will be hosting at Skybar, HBO at the Chateau Marmont and Lionsgate and Showtime at Morton’s.

On Sunday, BAFTA/LA will hold its tea at the Park Hyatt, and the Mike Medavoy-Vanity Fair soiree will break out at the Argyle Hotel (the first time it won’t be at Medavoy’s pad).

Monday sees the Globes, four after-parties at the Beverly Hilton, and a few smaller gatherings scattered around town.

Tuesday, Jan. 17, the L.A. Film Critics will hand out honors to its previously announced winners.

Traditionally, only the Oscars received the preamble party treatment, with fetes such as those hosted by Arnold Rifkin and Ed Limato. In addition, there have been a crop of fund-raising events, such as the “Night Before” party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which raises money for the Motion Picture & TV Home, and Elton John’s AIDS fund-raiser, held the night of the Oscars.

Now the Globes are creating a new nexus of party power. Revelers will be hung over from their pre-party weekend well before the Wilshire Blvd. hotel becomes a bacchanalian barrio of velvet ropes and sloshing Dom Perignon. At the Hilton, Universal/NBC is taking over the roof, Warner Bros./InStyle is presiding over the Oasis Room, Fox is in the Stardust Room, HBO is downstairs at the Aqua Star pool area, and Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. are holding court in Trader Vic’s.

(Notably absent from the ruckus this year is Miramax — traditionally a party, and awards, heavyweight under the Weinstein brothers — which won’t be throwing a bash.)

Though it beats digging ditches, this kind of 24/7 hoopla can be exhausting for agents and execs whose calendars are already booked with Sundance schmooze fests, as well as all the cocktails, teas and screenings leading up to the Oscars.

As for how to navigate this labyrinth of social destinees, one agent said over the phone: “Wait, I have a spreadsheet with all the parties floating around here somewhere…”

One benefit of spreading out the Globes revelry, however, may be to reduce the crushing crowds — many of whom aren’t industryites but are associated with the ubiquitous party sponsors — that in recent years have come close to shutting the Beverly Hilton down.

“Very often the parties are at capacity,” says one studio exec. “That’s very common at the Miramax party (held at Trader Vic’s), because that’s a space that’s full to bursting. The fire marshals can keep you waiting at the velvet rope.”

Another exec says that Globes partying is all about strategy. “If you meander and wander, you wait forever (to get in), but if you bolt out of the awards and rush into a party, once you’re in, you can have a drink and settle down while everyone else is waiting to get into the party.”

Another tip: “Grab a star. If you know one, hop in line with them. That helps.”

The expansion of Globes galas is one more sign of the awards-season flux.

First, there was the shortening of the season, when the Oscars moved up a month, to late February. This year, the Academy Awards went through a second shift, moving to March 5, thanks to the Winter Olympics.

Now the Golden Globes have been bumped from their traditional Sunday slot to Monday. The move is partly a result of the fact that the Globe-winning comedy series, “Desperate Housewives,” out-Nielsen’d the Globes last year, and partly the result of a crowded football sked.

The fact that Hollywood takes the Globes seriously — well, serious enough — is a remarkable achievement for the HFPA, a group of 80 journalists repping foreign countries.

Hard as it is to imagine, just a decade ago, there was no such thing as a Golden Globes party, pre- or post-. The tradition of small gatherings started spreading in the mid-1990s, with Miramax celebrating such pics as “Pulp Fiction” and “The Piano,” and Universal saluting “In the Name of the Father.” Mike Medavoy opened up his home six years ago for a more subdued, exclusive affair.

With the Weinsteins no longer at Miramax, however, and the Disney-owned label not pushing any major films, this year portends a shake-up of the traditional Globes party hierarchy. In recent years the Miramax and HBO parties have been the most popular, both because they’ve been heavy on first-name celebs, such as Leo and Uma, and because they’ve had hit movies (“Chicago,” “Gangs of New York”) and shows (“The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City”) to tout.

A party’s “heat” is measured in proportion to the films that a studio has on tap that year. So Focus Features, under the NBC Universal umbrella, is expected to bring sizzle to its bash with “Brokeback Mountain,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Constant Gardener,” as well as U, which has Globe contenders “Cinderella Man,” “Munich,” “King Kong” and “The Producers.”

But this year’s party marathon could well prove so taxing that by Monday night, even the Golden Globe winners won’t have much gas left in the tank.

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