The history boys

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Take heart Christine Lahti, you are not alone. Sure, the moment when your name was announced at the 1998 Golden Globes and you were in the ladies room has become infamous. But that's not the only time this has happened.

"I produced a picture (2000's 'Nurse Betty') that Renee Zellweger got nominated for," says Steve Golin. "Renee was in the restroom when they called her name. It was very awkward because there was a bit of dead air in the TV broadcast while everybody tried to figure out where she was."

That such a thing could happen twice might seem odd, but it's business as usual for the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s annual celebration "almost feels like uncharted territory," says Mary Hart, who has covered the awards for "Entertainment Tonight" for the last 20 years. "You don't know what to expect, except that you know you're going to get some sort of surprise."

Surprise has been the order of the day since the Globes began, when a group of foreign entertainment journalists, unhappy with the treatment they were getting from the studios, banded together to create the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Assn. -- and what better way to build credibility than through an award?

The HFCA's first affair took place at 20th Century Fox studios in 1944. Five recipients, all previously announced, were honored at a luncheon. There wasn't even a Golden Globe yet. Instead, the winners received scrolls.

Things got ritzier the next year with a dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. As the familiar globe-and-filmstrip statue was added, so were a number of categories. During its first half-decade, the Globes bounced around such hot spots as Ciro's, the Coconut Grove, the Hollywood Knickerbocker and the Hollywood Roosevelt.

In 1950, nominations were introduced, but the awards also hit a bump later that year when feuding caused some members to resign and form a new organization, the Foreign Press Assn. of Hollywood. HFCA continued to host the Globes, while the upstarts attempted to steal their thunder with the Henriettas. After five years, the two groups reunited under a new moniker: the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

The Globes began picking up steam in 1956 when the HFPA started honoring television programming and handing out a range of unique awards. Ronald Reagan received the Hollywood Citizenship Award and Elizabeth Taylor was honored for "Consistent Performance" in 1957, while in 1958 Zsa Zsa Gabor received Most Glamorous Actress, adding star power to the event.

According to the HFPA Web site, celebrity presenters came into the mix in 1958 when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. "stormed the stage" and "took over" the show. Their act went over so well, a repeat performance was requested the following year. But a 1958 newspaper clipping throws some doubt on that account. "The show ran long, with stars presenting stars who in turn presented the little Golden Globes," wrote Kendis Rochlen in the Los Angeles Mirror-News. "Those who proved fast with the quip included Bill Holden, Ernie Kovacs, Dick Powell, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin, Sinatra and that just barely 40-year-old youngster, Jack Benny."

Either way, there's no disputing the Globes were becoming a premier Hollywood event. Today, the ceremony is broadcast in over 190 countries and the HFPA estimates that approximately 250 million tune in to the show.

But it was in 1979, when a lack of sponsors killed any chance of a TV broadcast, that the Globes started to get a reputation as the party of the year. Sans cameras, Robin Williams reportedly grabbed his privates as he accepted his award for best television actor, while Richard Harris and his wife Ann Turkel were equally lewd as presenters. Host Chevy Chase summed up the evening when he proclaimed, "Thank God we're not on TV."

HFPA president Jorge Camara believes liquor helped fuel two of his favorite Globes moments.

"I remember one time when Rita Hayworth was a presenter. When she came out, the orchestra started playing 'Put the Blame on Mame' from 'Gilda,'" says Camara, who hasn't missed a Golden Globes ceremony since 1966. "She started dancing, and the orchestra kept going and she kept going."

One of the Globes most famous moments came courtesy of Bette Midler. In 1980, After winning both the award for motion picture actress (comedy/musical) and new star of the year in a motion picture (female), she took the podium holding both awards, and with a robust shimmy proclaimed, "I'll show ya a pair of Golden Globes."

But Camara says this is only half the story. "In her acceptance speech, she said she had gotten the Globe after going to bed with several (HFPA) members. Then she made a motion like she was going down on the statue."

Despite the fun, the Globes can also provide their share of poignant moments. For Hart, one that stands out was her encounter with Michael J. Fox just before it was revealed how serious his Parkinson's disease was.

"He was nervous, which made his shaking a little worse, and he really didn't want to be shaking," she recalls. "He told me that on the platform. That was very moving and very candid of him."

Barry Adelman, who began producing the television broadcast for Dick Clark Prods. in 1995, remembers observing Heath Ledger backstage, preparing to present an award. "It's a party night and a lot of people just come up there and almost wing it," he says. "He was so serious. You could see the deep concentration, looking at what he was going to say, mouthing the words over and over. He wasn't there to go through the motions. He wanted it to be special."
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