What stood out most for me during the 69th Golden Globe Awards Ceremony was not host Ricky Gervais and his brazen humor and wit, nor was it the wonderful gowns worn by the beautiful women or the acceptance speeches or the botched readings from the teleprompter by an array of presenters. What captured my attention most was that this is an awards show awash in booze, and no one associated with it has even a glimmer of embarrassment about it.
After Gervais gave his monologue, which was a bit disappointing in terms of its shock and awe, he introduced Johnny Depp as the first presenter with the line, “Please welcome the man who will wear literally anything Tim Burton tells him to.” Depp sauntered on stage and sniffed Gervais’s libation. Obviously contented to discover it was pure booze, Depp turned and spoke, seemingly channeling his inner Captain Jack Sparrow (not to mention Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and the Mad Hatter too). So the Golden Globe Awards were off to a well lubricated start.
Throughout the broadcast Mr. Gervais could be seen with glass in hand (he switched to wine at some point during the evening). As the director gave generous glimpses of the audience throughout the night, we saw images of the glittering Hollywood stars drinking, eating, kibitzing, and drinking some more. One shot revealed champagne being poured, others showed the glasses clinking and faces getting rosier than Santa’s after too many cookies washed down with shots of whiskey.
While this may seem a bit shocking in 2012, it actually reminded me of the old days of television. I remember when I was very young and saw Jackie Gleason come out on stage after the show, knocking down the fourth wall with a cigarette in one hand and booze in the other as he talked with the audience. Legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow always was seen cigarette in hand, and I recall guests on The Tonight Show (and others of its kind) smoking and drinking as they talked with Johnny or the other hosts.
In fact, even characters in sitcoms and dramas would be seen drinking and smoking regularly. It was almost a given that you would see at least one light-up and one drink per episode. Standing out in my memory was a scene featuring the great Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy having her cigarette lit by guest star William Holden and having the flame burn the edge of her putty nose (part of a disguise she was wearing).
Somehow things all changed for television. I am not sure when and where it happened, but I think it may correspond with Disney taking over Times Square in New York City and ABC Television. The Disney version of life seemed so pervasive that it wiped out the dens on inequity in the center of the real world New York and the liberal use of smoking and drinking on the tube. It may not have been all Disney’s fault, since the censors on all stations seemed to kick in, and everyone from the Huxtables on The Cosby Show to stars in serious dramas suddenly went cold turkey. No one smoked or drank, and it does seem like that is more or less still expected on TV today (unless you count Super Bowl commercials).
So last evening when I was watching the Golden Globes, I was reminded of those shows of my youth. A memory of Dean Martin on one of his celebrity roasts came to mind, and old Dino was hoisting a glass and smoking a cigarette throughout the proceedings. Last night no one was smoking at the Globes (at least that we could see), but they were certainly drinking copiously. Mr. Gervais summed it up best by comparing the broadcast to the Oscars, saying that the Globes show is “a bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker, and more easily bought.” I am not sure about that last part.
Somewhere up there Gleason, Carson, Martin, and the rest were no doubt hoisting a few and enjoying the show. It is something of an anomaly in the world of entertainment to see stars loosen up like that, reminding us of a time long ago when it was common. This doesn’t mean we won’t watch the Academy Awards broadcast, because we will, but that mostly dry affair is a little bit more stodgy than it should be, and maybe the open bar has something to do with it.
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