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This story first appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Since the awards show’s beginnings in 1944 at such star-studded nightclubs as Ciro’s and the Cocoanut Grove inside Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, booze has had everything to do with the Golden Globes. In 1958, the first year the awards were televised, members of the HFPA were so vanilla that Rat Pack-ers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — whiskey and smokes in hand — (sloppily) commandeered the stage to present the honors. Thus the modern celebrity host was born.
From left: Martin, Davis and Sinatra helped themselves to whiskey.
These days, 7,500 glasses of champagne are consumed courtesy of 25-year sponsor Moet, which invented a drinking funnel compatible with splits tucked into the hands of guests as they walk the red carpet — ensuring great photo ops and that attendees will be loosened up before they walk in the door. Fueled by a backstage bar, the HFPA’s soaked shenanigans are a Globes tradition — fourth-time host Ricky Gervais will perform the 2016 duties with his special frosty beer mug on hand — and, in this era of political correctness, more welcome than ever before. “Probably the best thing about the long, long, long show was the free drinks,” said Sandra Bullock after the 2009 Globes. And in the immortal words of Tina Fey, who hosted with Amy Poehler in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with glasses in hand, “Get a bunch of people in a room who don’t eat much, give them one drink — it gets good fast.”
From left: Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, Will Arnett and 2010-12 Globes host Gervais clustered around a typical drink-laden table at The Weinstein Co./Netflix 2015 afterparty.
The first public admission of drunkenness (the awards were broadcast nationally by NBC in 1964) was probably, and appropriately, by Walter Matthau, presenting in 1973: “If everyone seems to be acting peculiar, it’s because we haven’t eaten yet — and all there is on the table is booze.”
The Globes got racier in 1980 when best actress winner Bette Midler loved her statuette so much she simulated oral sex with it. It didn’t surprise many when best actor winner Gerard Depardieu gave a loopy speech in ’91; after all, he later admitted to a French magazine, “I drink 14 bottles of wine a day.” Matt Damon and a pre-rehab Ben Affleck were emerging stars when they won best screenplay in 1998, but that didn’t keep them from drunkenly flirting Elizabeth Hurley backstage (luckily she’d also had a few).
Moet at the table of human-rights lawyer Amal and 2015 Cecil B. DeMille honoree George Clooney, whom Fey joked might be less deserving than his wife of an achievement award.
More vintage bad behavior: the infamous 2001 night when Elizabeth Taylor (eventually) presented best drama film to Gladiator and slurred words, tearing open the envelope before reading the nominees. An unsteady Jack Nicholson, taking home a Globe for About Schmidt in 2003, admitted to taking a Valium during his incoherent speech but didn’t mention how many champers he had imbibed.
In 2006 at a Focus Features/NBC Universal afterparty, Fergie was crawling all over then-boyfriend Josh Duhamel, about to conk out when a photographer preserved the moment. In 2012, The Guard nominee Brendan Gleeson brought his tipsy wife Mary to the HBO party, only to have her carried out later by several men. Even Helen Mirren announced, approaching the stage, “I’ve had a few glasses of wine.”
Kevin clutched a split and House of Cards co-star Kate Mara in 2015.
Clearly Quentin Tarantino wasn’t prepared in 2013 when the camera shot to him as nominees for best director were read. Upon hearing his name, he did a spit take, champagne shooting out of his mouth. Jacqueline Bisset’s notorious prattling in 2014, even after being played off, was attributed by the media to more than a few champagne flutes, but she later explained her speech as, “It just did a twist on itself.” Well, alcohol can do that to a person. The same year, who can forget Emma Thompson clasping a martini trying to open an envelope, only to fling her high heels over her shoulder; Sofia Vergara at the HBO party, claiming she was too drunk to take photos (but not too drunk to dance); and Michael Fassbender dancing the night away, somewhat clumsily, at the CAA party.
It’s not like there’s a decorous presence on hand to wag a finger, either, as an insider who has worked closely with the HFPA for years confides: “Many are at the events partying up a storm — and a lot of them are over 70.” As summed up by Gervais, “The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton: Bit louder. Bit trashier. Bit drunker. And more easily bought … allegedly.”
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