It's a surreal affair at the Beverly Hilton, starless and strange
Sunday night at the Golden Globe Awards announcement, you really didn't.
Strike-torn and starved of stars, the Globes were thrown, sort of. The nominees were left to feel their schadenfreude and/or exultation from some discreet location, skipping the formal dinner in a show of solidarity with their union brethren at the Writers Guild of America, which remains in a standoff with Hollywood producers.
Without Clooney and Clint, or Angelina and Meryl, it was left to the entertainment press to gather at the heavily fortified Beverly Hilton to hear the names of the winners -- if not see them in the flesh.
They called it a press conference and let TV personalities like "Entertainment Tonight's" Mary Hart play at being actual presenters, with actual jokes.
Some of the nominees, meanwhile, went about their lives as if it were just another Sunday. Others had viewing parties, a cluster -- for the movies "Atonement" and "La Vie en Rose" and the cable TV series "Mad Men" -- at the Chateau Marmont.
"We were on the balcony. I almost fell over. I never had this experience of feeling weak in the knees," said Jon Hamm, star of AMC's "Mad Men."
The show, about Madison Avenue advertising executives in early 1960s Manhattan, earned a Globe as best television drama series and one for Hamm as best actor in a drama series.
"It's perfect for our show. I have nothing to compare it -- it just feels great."
But Hamm, who said he was wearing jeans and a blazer, called his victory somewhat bittersweet. "This whole thing just makes me sad. I hope everyone can start acting like adults again and not like petulant fourth-graders. Everyone wants to get back to work."
David Duchovny, who scored best actor in a television musical or comedy series for his role as the creatively blocked novelist in the Showtime comedy "Californication," had gone out to see "The Bucket List" to avoid watching the announcement. But he knew he'd won when he saw a flashing message light when he returned to his hotel room in Vancouver, Canada, where he's filming a sequel to "The X Files."
"It sounds silly to say -- the nomination was really great, but I really wanted the show to win," said Duchovny, who got the news from his manager. HBO's "Extra" had won the comedy series award.
In the Hilton ballroom, people drank and ate from a buffet and generally made do, while members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the governing body of the Globes, gave away their awards as usual, filling in the awkwardness of the whole event with some gallows humor.
"It still has a patina of glamour, doesn't it?" said HFPA member Jack Tewksbury, seated in the ballroom minutes before the news conference began.
Tewksbury, who, according to the HFPA website, writes for publications in Argentina and Russia, is among the judges of an award show that has become an important marketing tool and Oscar bellwether.
There were victories all the same to be had Sunday night for the likes of movie star Cate Blanchett (for her Bob Dylan persona in the film "I'm Not There") and Tina Fey (for best actress in a comedy series, for her NBC show "30 Rock").
In any other year, Blanchett and Fey would have been escorted from the stage like precious cargo, ushered into a series of press rooms, where photographers and the TV and print media would await their reactions, feeding the worldwide hunger for Hollywood's leading lights.
But that machine never even got churning, really. For the news conference Sunday, there were sentries and roving squads of dour-faced security officers. By the middle of the show, though, they were relaxing rules about entry, BlackBerry usage in the room and keeping doors shut.
Of course, the starriest room in the joint was the ladies room, where Marilyn Monroe's photo hangs.
The Beverly Hills Police Department, which usually has 120 officers (including SWAT) on site, had 10 there Sunday night.
Outside the news conference, there was a handful of film workers who were holding signs beside the hotel's parking structure, urging passing motorists to honk for an end to the Writers Guide of America strike.
"I'm on unemployment, and it ain't cutting it," said Barbara J. Keys, an on-set medic for the last 12 years, most recently on the ABC drama "Private Practice." "We're out here to let people know that this isn't just about the writers and producers."
Behind the dozen or so protesters was a huge poster signed by about 70 workers who had lost their jobs and their healthcare because of the strike.
Before the show began, a crew of die-hard fans lingered in the lobby, waiting in vain for stars to show up.
Janice Osborne of Arlington, Texas, has been coming to the Golden Globes each year for more than a decade, and she and her daughter were not going to make an exception this year.
But the only boldfaced name they'd seen during their trip was Vanessa Williams having lunch at the Farm, a restaurant in Beverly Hills, said Osborne's daughter, Erin Norris.
Inside the ballroom, the trickle-down of the strike was being felt as a giant anticlimax. The Hilton has been hosting the Globes for 34 years, in recent years unfurling about 30,000 feet of red carpet for the entrances, according to Hilton public relations director Lynda Simonetti.
"We normally have 1,300 guests at the Globes and another 3,000 at the viewing and after-parties," she said.
Hilton staffer Christina Sanchez was working her 10th awards show. "It's sad to see it come to this," she said with a shake of her head. "It's no fun."
Then she nodded toward the journalists sipping sodas. "And no tips, either."
By 7:15, the half-hour news conference was long over, and it was last call at the bar anyway.