×

It took three minutes to access the Beverly Hilton driving westbound on Santa Monica Blvd. from Beverly Hills this Sunday.

Any other year on Golden Globes night, it would’ve been a nightmare of street closures, clunky shuttle buses, snipers on rooftops, and the reliable gaggle of Westboro Baptist Church protesters promising Hollywood that it will burn in the fires of hell.

But this year the valet line at the landmark Los Angeles venue was empty. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association mounted a (comparatively) minuscule show to celebrate the best in film and television with very little fanfare. The pared-down event came as the embattled HFPA saw a talent boycott over a lack of diversity in its membership and some questionable business practices within the notably small voting body of 105 global journalists.

Donning black tie and modest gowns, HFPA members queued up at a lone check-in table flanked by COVID-19 compliance officers in the lobby. The hotel’s international ballroom, from where NBC typically broadcasts the annual ceremony, was guarded by two metal detectors and a lean production staff.

Prominent show business figures seemed to keep their promise to avoid the event — not one famous face, top executive or notable publicity rep could be spotted. Sources said a handful of HFPA consultants attended, but people watching was made harder thanks to COVID protocols.

An attendee inside the ballroom estimated a total of 200 guests were present, all masked for the duration of the show. Dinner was not served inside, but Mediterranean fare and fresh sashimi awaited the notoriously party-loving group afterward in the former Trader Vic’s space by the pool. Decorated in blush and black tones, guests sipped champagne and openly smoked cigarettes (a dead giveaway that the international set has come to Los Angeles).

The Hilton is transformed into a tiny metropolis on a normal Globes night. Up to eight of the major studios and networks host lavish viewing and after-parties surrounding the main event. Paying hotel guests are relegated behind velvet ropes, where they can stare slack-jawed at movie stars outside the Hilton’s business and copy center. But tonight, tumbleweeds may as well have blown through the marble corridors.

By far my favorite image of the night came before the doors were sealed for the 6 p.m. start of show, when a couple marched right through the check-in line of guests in formal wear donning their Hilton hotel bathrobes, carrying books and towels from an afternoon by the pool.

Front desk staff and idle workers at the rooftop lounge lamented how slow the day had been, most of them chalking it up to the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant (we need to gift the Hilton staff a subscription to Variety).

Many in the industry questioned the HFPA’s decision to host an in-person ceremony at all. The collective “time out” they’ve been given by the creative community (and their broadcast partner NBC) was meant to buy the organization time to overhaul its problem areas. But the vibe on site was one of great excitement. Thunderous applause could be heard clear across the hotel lobby for winners like best motion picture drama “The Power of the Dog,” as well as pre-taped cameos from Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the silent, apocalyptic vibe of the 2022 Golden Globe Awards was the absence of a red carpet. Award shows are about pageantry, after all, and not even a roaming wire photographer could elevate the gravitas above that of a medical convention banquet. Through the occasional opening of the ballroom doors, you could glimpse two photo walls erected on which the HPFA logo was emblazoned. Guests posed for selfies there before hitting the after-party.

As different as the night seemed, take comfort in the fact that the show — which was not aired in any capacity — still ran about 10 minutes overtime. That, and the sacred tradition of gift bags was alive and well. White plastic bags about the size of a pair of Manolo Blahniks awaited guests as they headed to the self-parking garage.