The HFPA Is Corrupt, and Nobody Cares

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Bad Globes, BAD. HFPA
Bad Globes, BAD. HFPA

In 1981, an actress named Pia Zadora starred in a film called "Butterfly," which also starred, surreally, Orson Welles, June Lockhart and Ed McMahon. It was, to put it mildly, not a success, due in large part to Zadora herself. New York Times critic Vincent Camby called her "spectacularly inept." She only "earned" the part because the film was financed by her husband, multimillionaire Meshulam Riklis, who owned the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Riklis was not satisfied with just Zadora's casting. He famously flew all the members of the voting bloc for the Golden Globes to the casino and compensated them lushly. And wouldn't you know it: They ended up selecting Zadora as "Newcomer of the Year." Two years later, she would propel that success to a supporting role in "Voyage of the Rock Aliens." Since then, no one has trusted the Golden Globes any further than they could throw them. It might have even gotten worse since then.

Yesterday, Michael Russel, who served as a publicist for the Hollywood Foreign Press (who votes on the Globes) for 17 years, filed suit in Los Angeles superior court claiming that the association:

Engaged in payola, accepting money and gifts from studios in exchange

for nominating their films; sold red carpet space and media access at a

profit; and received payment from studios to lobby their fellow

Hollywood Foreign Press voters towards (or against) movies.

On one hand, this is hardly news: The Foreign Press Association has been accused of being corrupt and hackish for years, a loosely assembled cadre of junketeers who swoon and faint every time a movie star so much as looks in their general direction. On the other: This is a lifelong employee of the famously secretive organization airing their dirty laundry three days before their signature event, the reason the organization exists in the first place. (Along with their inexplicable non-profit status designation, which they have despite their current $26 million deal for putting together the Golden Globes.) It's difficult to imagine a more damning smoking gun.

Not that anyone in the real world, outside aggrieved film journalists, will ever care. The Golden Globes, in spite of themselves, are a fun event, more relaxed than the Oscars, a welcome warmup for the real award shows to come. It doesn't matter to the average person how the sausage is made; no one believes awards shows are on the level anyway, that they somehow are intended to honor the best films and television programs of the year in the first place. People just want to watch attractive people in pretty clothes. If the HFPA goes down because of this -- and they surely won't -- someone else will step in, and the Golden Globes will go on. You could have 10 guys in funny hats vote on the Golden Globes, using only coin flips and dart boards to make their selections, and if the movie stars still show up, the Golden Globes will be just fine. If they can survive "Burlesque" and "The Tourist," they can survive anything.

Payola and Kickbacks Alleged in Golden Globes Lawsuit [New York Times]