“It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said, or something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten.”
That’s an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and I’m probably quoting her because it’s midnight, almost seven hours after my first—of many endless—glasses of champagne at last night’s Golden Globes ceremony. But we’ll get to the alcohol later. Let’s start, in honor of Woolf, with the food. The appetizer served at the Beverly Hilton ballroom was a grilled artichoke with fennel-tomato-lemon mousse and California pepper-honey goat cheese. The entrée was smoked flat-iron beef with caramelized mint fennel, kabocha pumpkin, yellow cauliflower, and baby bok choy. The dessert was a cappuccino-mousse dome.
And I ate almost none of it. Don’t worry, neither did anyone else. When you watch the Globes on TV, it looks like a fancy (and rebellious) dinner party. But if you’re lucky enough to actually land a seat to the event, you’ll learn the truth—it’s really a drinking party. There is a sit-down dinner, but it’s served at 3:30 p.m., when most of the celebrities are still winding through the maze of red-carpet interviews. By 4:30 p.m., as they trickle inside the venue, thirsty and starved, the only provisions left on the tables are bottles of wine and champagne.
That might explain why Quentin Tarantino looked so happy when he won his Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. He also looked like he could dive headfirst into the front row.
I’d gone to the Golden Globes before as a journalist, but never as a guest. When I landed a ticket this year, I was excited to be at the actual “dinner.” I found my table—No. 324—and settled in with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s publicist and a nice woman who sits on the BAFTA board. Even in the nosebleed seats, the Globes are still entertaining as hell. “This is the best party all year!” enthused one publicist, who didn’t work for the organization. During the commercials, I was able to wander around to wherever I wanted.
The night started with celebrities barreling through the ballroom door, relieved that the E! interviews are behind them. It’s like watching the most famous people in the world arrive at a wedding. Jennifer Lopez strolled in with a massive entourage of maybe eight people. Lena Dunham had an entourage of only two. As she found her seat, she turned to her team and said, “You guys are the best friends a woman can have.” She sounded like a character from Girls.
Emily Blunt kept adjusting her dress as she walked in with her husband, John Krasinski. They were the dorky, smart couple, followed by the edgy goth kids—Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green. Steven Spielberg made an entrance by clutching his wife’s hand. Aaron Paul turned to Glenn Close and said, “Gorgeous,” which best summed up her look. The celebrities eventually all took their seats. But at the second or third commercial, I noticed Mark Wahlberg seemed to be haggling a deal outside the bathroom.
That’s one of the places the stars congregated during the commercial breaks. Someone asked Bill Murray how he was doing while he stood in line for the men’s room. “Good,” he said, in a monotone voice that sounded more like he meant “bad.”
As the night went on, the other place that celebrities headed for refuge was the outdoor smoking balcony. Alison Pill and Emily Mortimer took a few puffs before the show. Jeremy Renner and Eva Longoria joked around as the telecast dragged on. Jon Hamm should have won an award for most cigarette breaks. He kept running out.
There’s an inside bar adjacent to this area, with a buffet. This was a good people-watching spot later on, when the guests were feeling more restless. Keith Urban piled a lot of slices of watermelon onto a plate, and I wondered if it was for him or his wife, Nicole Kidman. NeNe Leakes took pictures and sipped a soda cocktail. Isla Fisher was making her way in that direction, but stopped when Dunham’s name was read and thoughtfully listened to what the Girls star had to say. When the rest of us would stand, we could watch parts of the ceremony until security would try to shoo us back to our seats. But they never seemed all that serious about it, and you could linger for most of the night and get a better view of the stage.
If I haven’t said much about the winners, it’s because the actual trophies felt like a backdrop to all the drinking and hanging out. The crowd loved Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s opening routine, especially the torture joke about Kathryn Bigelow’s marriage to James Cameron. Jennifer Lawrence’s speech, for her best-comedic-actress win for Silver Linings Playbook, was a crowd-pleaser. When Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance to introduce Lincoln, he received a thunderous standing ovation. The other big standing ovation went to Ben Affleck, when his named was called in the best-director category for Argo. The enthusiastic reaction from actors, who vote on the Academy Awards, makes it even weirder that he was snubbed for a best-director Oscar nomination last week.
Speaking of weird, should we talk about Jodie Foster? After she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, the ballroom went completely silent. It was just as confusing to watch live as on TV. It seemed like she was going to come out of the closet, before she didn’t, and then she did. She attacked Honey Boo Boo and hinted that she was retiring from acting, but people didn’t know if they were supposed to laugh or cry. I ran over to gauge the room’s reaction, and the stars only nodded encouragingly when they could see the camera pan to them.
Once the show was over, there was a stampede for the door. More alcohol flowed at the after-parties, this time with real food. The longer they partied, the more un-celebrity-like they became. Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi were like jovial drinking buddies as they talked in one of the hallways. Dev Patel loitered around another corridor, waiting for his plugged-in phone to charge. More faces that weren’t at the dinner started to show up, like Alyssa Milano and Derek Hough from Dancing With the Stars.
On the dance floor of the Warner Bros. party, the ’80s music lent the ball a wedding vibe. Aaron Paul did a funky jig, waving a fork in his hand. The crowds parted and there was Foster. Even if her speech was a mess, she seemed relieved that she had said she wanted to say. She took pictures and chatted with some gay fans. Then she started dancing with her Golden Globe statuette. She had a big smile on her face, and she was mouthing the words to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.”