BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — A roar went up from the lobby bar of the Beverly Hilton before tonight's Golden Globes. But it wasn't fans thrilling at the sight of Angelina Jolie or George Clooney on the red carpet — it was the New York Giants upsetting the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL playoffs.
The Globes typically kick off Hollywood's award season with more than 1,000 stars and powerbrokers on hand for a rollicking ceremony. But they were knocked back into humdrum reality by the Hollywood writers strike, forced to trade that tradition for an awkward news conference with all the drama of a Los Angeles weathercast.
The hotel ballroom, which should have been filled with famous nominees cheek-to-cheek at cozy tables, instead was given over to risers holding TV cameras and an audience of reporters and anonymous others. The after-Globe parties that were to have drawn 3,000 merrymakers were canceled.
Lacking Hollywood's trademark famous faces and manufactured excitement, the awards voted on by 85 little-known journalists from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were missing any magic or meaning — an emperor stripped of his designer duds. Traffic flowed freely in front of the hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, normally choked with limos, taxis and shuttle buses depositing stars, fans, publicists and media. Behind the hotel, Santa Monica Boulevard was open instead of being blocked off for security reasons.
TV viewers — those who bothered tuning in — had to forgo any celebrity sightings and settle for the likes of Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood" and Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight" fame. They read a laundry list of winners, supplemented by clips from nominated film and TV shows.
"I want to thank my agents," Hart joked between award announcements, drawing silence from the audience. "And yes, I yearn for the days of Jack Nicholson mooning the Golden Globes, Christine Lahti getting locked in the bathroom, but we have that for next year."
Scattered applause and cheers greeted the names of winners, but they came disembodied, from an audience that never made it on camera. The scaled-down event was attended by about 600 reporters, television crews, HFPA members, their invited guests and publicists in business attire.
After the event was over, the most glamorous women in the room — the entertainment program hosts who announced the winners dressed in simple cocktail dresses — obligingly posed for photographers on the stage.
"This is the scene today. there is not a star to be found," Bush said as NBC opened its coverage of the event it was to air in all its glory until the striking Writers Guild of America refused to grant the show a waiver. Next month's Academy Awards also drew a guild thumbs-down.
Shots of glitzy Globe ceremonies of years past were played by TV Guide and other channels, acting like prom-goers who were stood up for their date and had to moon over photos of last year's dance.
The 30,000 square feet of red carpet, chilled bottles of champagne, huge sprays of flowers and limo gridlock that makes the hotel a beehive of activity on Globes night was nowhere to be seen.
Beverly Hills fire marshal Ralph Mundell and his colleague stood around the bar with their hands folded. The department had three people on site, compared to 21 at a typical Globes ceremony.
"It's very weird," Mundell said. "You don't feel the energy in the air. Obviously, there's no celebrities."
Outside the hotel, a group of entertainment industry workers waved signs at passing motorists to protest the stalled contract talks that have cost thousands of jobs.
Howard Keys, a set medic on "Private Practice," held a sign that read, "No negotiations no work."
Keys said he has been out of work since before Thanksgiving, and many of his colleagues were in danger of losing their health insurance.
"We're the workers, the grunts of the industry," Keys said. "A grip, a camera operator, a set lighting technician — they can't work elsewhere. These are our full-time jobs, our careers."
Many of the protesters were part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents many "below-the-line" workers in Hollywood and has conflicted with the WGA over jurisdictional issues in the past.
At the Hilton bar, the Miller sisters from New York City lamented missing out on star sightings. But at least their football team won.
"We're huge fans and we're just very sad this is happening," said
Miller, a jewelry boutique owner who showed off her only souvenir — a gold hotel room key with 'Golden Globe Awards 2008' in black letters. "It's even way less than I expected it to be."
Nancy Miller and her sister Jill wanted to find out the winners, but they had more pressing plans than watching the televised news conference.
"We're going to dinner," Nancy said, "and see some celebrities at Mr. Chow's."