When I ask people in Hollywood about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) and its Golden Globes Awards, they laugh.
An ex-studio publicist once told me: "At the studio, we were told about the Hollywood foreign press, take them out to a nice hotel, order the best bottle of champagne, and you'll get whatever you want from them. I always laugh when I watch the Golden Globes [given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association]. Nobody understands out there in middle America what really goes on in Hollywood."
"They're like the Beverly Hillbillies," says one publicist. (Brills Content, 2/01)
The Golden Globes is televised around the world (started with an NBC telecast in 1996). Major stars show up. It's covered in most major newspapers. The Globes are considered an accurate predictor of the Academy Awards. A Globe award gives a movie or star extra exposure duing the month that members of the Academy vote (15 of the 20 "Best Picture" Oscars handed out in the past 20 years first won a Golden Globe in the "Drama" or "Comedy/Musical" category). Yet the HFPA and the Globes get no respect from Hollywood.
From Brills Content, February, 2001: "HFPA members have been called corrupt and, perhaps more tellingly, have been derided by Hollywood insiders as incompetent, slovenly, and junket-buffet gluttons. To be sure, the association's 89 members, a clique of foreign entertainment writers, are a decidedly ragtag band of industry outsiders. Many freelance for obscure overseas film magazines (a fact their stateside colleagues evoke often and condescendingly), but others are correspondents for top foreign papers -- including Israel's Ma'Ariv, Germany's Die Welt, Italy's La Repubblica, and England's Daily Telegraph."
The story most often used against the HGPA comes from 1982 when Pia Zadora won the Golden Globe for female "New Star of the Year" a few weeks after her multi-millionaire husband, Meshulam Riklis, flew them all to Las Vegas for a few days of entertainment.
The HFPA has accepted large gifts from studios and stars under consideration for their awards. In 1999, NBC forced the HFPA to change its rules. Members must now sign agreements to not accept valuable gifts.
"hese ill-dressed people slump in and help themselves to all the food," says Richard Schickel, film critic for Time magazine. "At the [HFPA] screenings there tends to be giant goody bags that I don't see." Aljean Harmetz wrote in the Los Angeles Times last year that HFPA members are perceived as "freeloaders who would sell their votes for a vodka and tonic and cross the Alps for a hot dog."
New Yorker film critic David Denby says: "I can't say that I see it very much, but it's always been very nondiscriminating, very fawning." Bernard Weinraub of The New York Times wrote that the group is "treated with a shrug and a certain humor by the Hollywood elite."
Peter Travers calls them "boneheads" and "fogeys" in a Rolling Stone article, making much of the HFPA's 1999 nominations for "Comedy/Musical" of Patch Adams and The Mask of Zorro.
Brills Content: "What's striking about all the critical statements is their tone: The sniping by American entertainment journalists reveals the field's own lingering self-doubt. The accusations -- that HFPA members are in it for the food and the goody bags and that they function as an extension of the Hollywood PR machine -- could well be leveled against the entertainment-journalism community. Most writers and editors in the field are on the studios' mailing lists: They receive promotional gifts and movie-premiere party invitations and attend interview junkets -- and food is, indeed, often served at such events. Everyone eats it."
Sharon Waxman writes in the 12/18/02 Washington Post:
But more fundamental reforms have been hard to come by in the clubby, rivalry-ridden culture of the HFPA. The organization remains closed to outsiders: Any single member can blackball an applicant. It accepts a maximum of five new members a year, and rarely that many.
And who are the members of the HFPA? Perhaps two dozen are working foreign journalists; a larger number are longtime members who freelance infrequently for small overseas publications. Many are Americans, many live on their pensions -- three are now in their nineties, many others in their eighties -- and struggle to produce the four yearly clippings they need to qualify as active members.
A large number of HFPA members make their living at other professions, including teaching, real estate, car sales and film promotion.
The money raked in by the Golden Globe telecast gives HFPA members privileges unheard of in other press organizations. Each active member can take two fully paid trips to film festivals of his or her choice, annually. They receive a subscription to Variety or The Hollywood Reporter for free. The association pays air fare for studio press junkets.
The HFPA gets unparalleled access to movie stars and directors, with studios holding press conferences for them with every movie release. Stars are required to pose for individual photos with every member who attends.