Published January 02, 2008
Forget New Year’s Eve. The real party down in expensive, tony and, apparently, cold St. Bart’s this year was on Dec. 30. The location was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Octopus, the sixth-largest private yacht in the world at 414 feet.
I’m told guests got to rub elbows with Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington and Brett Ratner, while both Jon Bon Jovi and Robbie Robertson played in separate jam sessions with the amiable Allen and his house rock band.
Also there were Billy Joel with wife, Katie Lee; Harvey Weinstein and bride, Georgina Chapman; Penny Marshall; Tom Freston; Linda Evangelista and Peter Morton; financier George Soros; and Rebecca DeMornay (fresh from her DUI arrest in Los Angeles).
LeeLee Sobieski; Vivi Nevo and Ziyi Zhang; Charles Simonyi and Martha Stewart; Lorne Michaels; and Antonio "LA" Reid of Island Def Jam Records all hung out on the boat.
My spies even spotted Warner Music Group’s Lyor Cohen, who was probably celebrating his company’s spectacular 75 percent loss in value for 2007. Their stock was trading at $6 Wednesday morning.
Maybe he was explaining over Champagne and caviar why on Friday, WMG suddenly turned over 3 million tracks to Amazon.com for downloading with copy protection (see Monday’s Fox411.) The many dozens of Warner/Atlantic legacy artists who depend on CD sales would be heartened to know Cohen was enjoying himself.
And St. Bart’s wasn’t the only mecca for A-listers this year. Cap Juluca, Anguilla, played host to Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, Sir David Frost, actor Aidan Quinn and family and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
I know what you’re thinking: How did we miss all of this? What could we have been doing back here in New York for two weeks that was more important? Answer: Considering that alternate-side-of-the-street parking was in effect most of the vacation, I don’t know!
The Writers Guild of America strike is about to take down its first big victim: the Golden Globes.
The Globes are set for Jan. 13. NBC, the host network, already is downplaying the awards on its Web site. The reason is that the Globes are not going to happen as in the past. The WGA definitely will be picketing the Beverly Hilton Hotel if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decides to go forward with a broadcast.
Stars are not going to cross that picket line, however. That means the Hilton ballroom will be filled with a lot of seat-fillers.
The Guild has no incentive to help the HFPA. For one, the group only gives one award for writing films. There’s no distinction between original and adapted screenplays. So it’s not like the Globes have much impact on writers’ careers.
But a Guild boycott of the Globes may do to that group what journalists have been attempting for years: wound, if not kill them.
As I’ve written in this space many times over the years, the Globes receive $6 million a year from NBC to license the name for the show. Produced by Dick Clark Productions, the Globes were really just a commercial concoction to get stars on TV. They are to the Oscars what the embarrassing American Music Awards are to the Grammys — a pale spoiler.
But no Globes telecast likely will mean no $6 million payout to the Hollywood Foreign Press. And that is trouble with a capital T. The HFPA is nothing without that $6 million payout. From it, they give about $1.2 million a year to various film-related charities. But the rest of the money is spent on themselves, and 80-member HFPA likes to live the good life.
You may recall a conversation I had with sometime president Philip Berk at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival. He and the other HFPA members at Toronto were being shuttled around in a chauffer-driven Escalade. (The rest of us were dependent on Toronto’s run-down cab system, thanks.)
"You should get one yourself," Berk cried as he stood at the bar in one party, flanked by two blondes.
It’s not like the HFPA will go bankrupt if it doesn't get its annual fee from NBC. According to federal tax records, the group claims an astonishing $15.3 million in assets on its last filing for 2005-2006.
Since this column began reporting on the HFPA’s finances a few years ago, it's gotten a little more clever about listing its expenses; however, even though the studios screen movies for them and pay their way in most cases, the HFPA still manages to spend just a whisker under $600,000 a year on travel.
Members claim they need to go to expensive, exotic film festivals such as Cannes, Venice and Deauville, as well as Sundance, Telluride and Toronto to see films. But they could be seeing those films in Los Angeles, and isn’t that the point? They’re supposed to be foreign journalists in Hollywood, not Americans who get to travel abroad.
Last year, they also claimed they spent $82,693 on "press conferences," another $56,000 on "research expenses," $65,777 on "photography" and $25,000 on "flowers and gifts," presumably for movie stars, if not for themselves. They also pay themselves: about a half-million dollars a year in salaries.
The grand total in expenses? $3,237,821. It costs that much for 80 people to come up with more or less the same nominees from the same movies as this column, the critics groups in various cities and the Academy Awards.
Let’s face it: Those numbers are not going to make the Writers Guild more sympathetic to the Hollywood Foreign Press.
It doesn’t help the HFPA has treated all of Hollywood’s regular press like crap for years, either. It’s not like anyone’s going to stick up for them. The photo agencies, for example, despise the HFPA because it uses its own photographers on the red carpet and gives all its business to the otherwise little-used Zuma Photo Agency.
The annual war between Munawar Hosain, the photographer in charge of credentials for the HFPA, and the bigger photo agencies is well-chronicled all over the Internet.
Of course, the biggest ingredient in the Globes is not the awards themselves, but the parties that follow at the Hilton. Rest easy: They’ve been booked and will proceed whether or not the HFPA gets its broadcast. That’s where the real entertainment is, anyway.