Golden Globes: Meet the Superfans Who Pay $4,200 for a Bleacher Seat
Just outside the doors of the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, where the Golden Globes ceremony is taking place, the hotel lobby is bustling with chatter. But despite the televisions in the lobby bar airing the live feed, nearly no one is paying attention to the show. As crewmen break down the red carpet outside the windows, media personnel perch on the nearest ledges, scanning their phones, and the fans in the bar eat and prepare themselves for their very own show.
Ruth Turpin has been coming to the Beverly Hilton on Globes weekend for 17 years. The first time was an accident; the Fort Worth, Texas, travel agent just happened to be staying here on business. She started coming back every year to stargaze, and eventually the Hilton began offering a formal Globes fan experience. The hotel doesn't advertise this special, but determined fans (or those with connections) can book the Golden Globes Package, which includes a two-night stay, Saturday night dinner at Circa 55, a gift bag that includes products from the hotel's Aqua Star spa and, most importantly, a bleacher seat along the red carpet and a right to be on the premises all weekend. Prices, which have risen each year, are determined based on specific bleacher location; this year Turpin paid $4,200 to be in the first row.
Now these Globes superfans, having staked out the tables lining the edge of the bar, are waiting for the parties to begin. As the ceremony wraps up, they turn their chairs to face outward in anticipation of the star-studded foot traffic that will soon be filling the Hilton lobby. Grabbing some valuable extra time with early arrivals like Kelly Osbourne and Melissa McCarthy, who had ducked out of the ballroom with a few awards left to give, one fan turns around and glances up to see best actress recipient Cate Blanchett onscreen. "I think she must have won," she murmurs to a friend. "She's giving a speech."
All 800 Beverly Hilton employees are on hand Sunday, including 40 chefs, 110 culinary staff, 50 bartenders and 250 servers working the show itself as well as the various private viewing parties, such as the one held in Le Chateau for the hotel's corporate VIPs. The Hilton has brought in uniformed members of the Beverly Hills Police Department as well as a handful of outside security companies to assist for the evening, controlling access as well as shadowing celebrities whenever someone like Matt Damon needs to cross the lobby for a bathroom break.
With the addition of security contractors hired by each afterparty's host, at times it feels like security personnel outnumber party guests (whose numbers eventually will rise to 6,000). "It's a highbrow crowd," says Dan Hair of Champion Security, "but alcohol can become a person's worst enemy."
The bartenders working the lobby — 10 tonight, double the regular number — are well aware, keeping an eye on the customers with a smile. "You don't want to have to cut people off," says Robert Furman, who's been working at the Beverly Hilton for nearly a decade. "It's a nice night."
"I don't want them to have a bad time," echoes Platoon Staffing's Blanca Rios, who will work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. checking badges. "They're important people." Taking a quick 10-minute cookie break, she points out a particular well-groomed gentleman standing outside the restroom. "Are you a star?" she asks. He isn't. "So beautiful," she murmurs.
Donny Doyle is good at identifying stars. "He's a big movie buff," says his partner, Raul Alvarado Jr. "And he's got an awesome camera." Alvarado, a former Navy hospital corpsman now studying in Orlando under the G.I. Bill, is here for the first time and having a blast. Between Saturday in the lobby during Globes rehearsal, an afternoon in the bleachers during the red carpet and Sunday night, he's taken selfies with Aaron Eckhart, Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde and Jessica Chastain and met his childhood favorite, Mexican star Eugenio Derbez. "This is the experience I was hoping for," he marvels.
The experience includes bonding with the fellow Globes Package buyers, for whom the awards show turns into an annual reunion of sorts. Alvarado credits part of his good experience this year to the friends he has made, including L.A. local Rita Sottile, who's been coming to the Globes for years. "The only drawback is finding out that a person you liked is rude," she says. Thankfully, many are gracious, she adds, rattling off a list of names that includes Robert Downey Jr., Kristen Wiig and Jason Statham.
"I don't know any of the new stars," exclaims Mary Helen Cole, sitting a few tables back. Ron Howard briefly appears on telecast. "I just think of him as Opie." Cole, an accountant, is visiting from Dallas as a guest of her daughter, a Warner Bros. publicist. She's a bit mortified by the Globes Package people, who pull out DSLR cameras and call out to passing celebrities, but she allows herself a few iPhone snaps when certain A-listers, including a smiling Joaquin Phoenix, stop by. "No wonder Julie said, ‘Sit here, Mama,'" she says.
Staking out the most advantageous spot at the lobby bar is 21-year-old Krystle McGill. She and her agent, Joey Sulfaro, have media badges but have set up a video camera at the head of the lobby bar's makeshift receiving line, snagging photo ops and quick interviews with winners like Jon Voight and Jacqueline Bisset on their way to and from the InStyle/Warner Bros. party. "Krystle's a global reporter," says Sulfaro, who has brought McGill over from Sydney for a few weeks. "She's already been offered a movie role and a TV role."
Other than McGill, clad in an aqua sequined gown, most of the fans in the lobby are casually dressed, save for Gus Schalkham, who has come in his mess dress — a tuxedo bearing the insignia of his rank as a U.S. Air Force colonel. Retired in 2010, Schalkham and his wife, Tammy, have been coming to the Globes for at least seven years, ever since learning about the Hilton package from a fellow spectator at the SAG Awards. "Back home [in Newport News, Va.] nobody cares about the movies," says Schalkham. "It's fun to be with other people who give a rat's."
But Schalkham is concerned about the continuously rising cost of the package, as well as the fact that this year the bleachers were moved a bit farther from the carpet. "What I'm worried about is that the price rises to the point where the little people can't come anymore," he says. "[The celebrities] have no idea that we paid for the privilege to be here. We just want to get nice pictures."
Not all Globes package participants crave the front row. Best friends Caroline Blossman and Janel Gray, who jokingly describe themselves as the "Real Housewives of New Orleans," prefer to observe from a distance. "What is so unique and wonderful about this is you're immersed in the event," says Blossman, who's been coming for the past three years but only decided to return for a fourth last week.
"Literally last Sunday we were watching the Saints game and [a commercial with] Tina Fey and Amy Poehler came on," she says. "We looked at each other and were like, ‘Should we go?' Luckily our husbands said, ‘Go ahead!' "
Blossman and Gray have spent the weekend watching and chatting with crew members as the Hilton transforms itself for one night only. "What's most mind-boggling is, tomorrow morning, we wake up and it's like no one has been here."
"It's magic," Gray says.
Blossman nods. "Hollywood magic."