If an awards show happens in Hollywood but nobody famous attends, does it really happen at all? Thanks to the 10-week-old writers strike, the normally glitzy, giddy Golden Globe Awards became a short, sad and surreal press conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel this year. The show's organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, canceled their NBC broadcast after the actors' union said it would boycott the event out of respect for striking writers. Instead the winners were announced by TV gossip-show hosts in an anticlimactic 30 minute event. Here's how the bizarre evening unfolded for the 600 or so of us in attendance and for some of the winners who weren't:
The outside of the Beverly Hilton is post-apocalyptically still. Six bored valet parkers sulk in the driveway that is usually swathed in red carpet and crowded with champagne-swilling celebs. Two golden orbs the size of refrigerators props normally used in the show sit in the parking garage.
The Writers Guild of America isn't picketing the downsized event, but another Hollywood union seized the chance to chat up hundreds of captive journalists. A half dozen below-the-line workers, most of them set nurses, stand on Santa Monica Blvd. holding signs that say, "Honk To Support Out-Of-Work Crews."
First tuxedo sighting of the night! Most of the journalists and publicists attending the Globes are kicking it business casual. But I spy an Asian man going black tie. Is it Entourage's Rex Lee? Heroes' Masi Oka? Alas, the mirage in this celebrity desert is just part of a TV news crew.
A lone fat guy is swimming laps in the pool area where HBO normally holds its gala.
Having devoured the fruit and cheese platters at the back of the International Ballroom, some of the reporters around me are resorting to journalistic cannibalism interviewing other reporters.
Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart arrives. Chaos ensues. Deprived of actual celebrities, the Hollywood press corps fawns over someone who is at least vaguely recognizable.
I score a seat so close to the stage it would belong to Julia or Jack in a normal year.
Six celebrity journalists who will deliver the names of the winners line up in chairs onstage like contestants on The Dating Game.
We're off! Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Jorge Camara starts the show by reminding us why we're sitting in Jack and Julia's seats. "We all hope the writers' strike will be over soon," Camara says.
Cate Blanchett wins best supporting actress in a film for her androgynous, uncanny portrayal of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. That's right, she's not here. But Blanchett does release a statement thanking the folkie: "None of this would be possible without the great man himself, Bob Dylan, wherever you are, whoever you are, I thank you deeply."
Glenn Close takes best actress in a TV series drama for her legal show Damages. Close is watching the broadcast from the Brass Monkey Bar in New York City with her cast and crew. "I was drinking bourbon on the rocks," she says. "It was great. This huge cheer went up."
Ratatouille grabs Best Animated Feature. Ratatouille director Brad Bird is at home in San Francisco with his wife and sons in front of the fireplace. "We were trying to find it on TV," Bird says. "We could only find it on a channel where the lower third was taken up by TV Guide listings." He's on the phone with his producer, Brad Lewis, who can't find the Globes broadcast on his TV either. "Meanwhile they announce that we won and it's, 'Congrats. Same to you I guess. See you tomorrow.'"
E! News' Giuliana Rancic, before announcing the Coen brothers's best screenplay win for No Country for Old Men, blurts out, "I support the WGA." Impartiality is apparently optional at E!.
David Duchovny wins best actor in a TV series comedy for his super-sexed show Californication. Duchovny is in a movie theater. "I knew if my phone was ringing when I walked into my hotel room that I would have won," Duchovny says. "And it was. Nobody calls a loser."
The winners are flying by so fast it's hard to imagine any of them getting a bump at the box office from the honor. Sorry, Best Picture/Comedy or Musical winner Sweeney Todd.
Presenter Mary Hart thanks her agent and hails Viggo Mortensen's "scary naked fight scene" in Eastern Promises. This news conference is becoming the best proof of the need for writers the WGA could hope for.
Atonement wins Best Motion Picture Drama. Director Joe Wright is feeling celebratory at the Chateau Marmont hotel in L.A. "I think I may have cut off the circulation in my fiance's hand I was holding it so tight," Wright says. "And now I'm going skinny-dipping in the pool!"
The End. Camara promises, "Next year the Golden Globe Awards will be back bigger and better than ever." Champagne is served. No one in the ballroom, however, quite feels like toasting.