Los Angeles Times

The in­su­lar, gray­ing Globes

No mem­ber is Black, ei­ther. Crit­i­cism of the for­eign press group grows.

- By Josh Rot­ten­berg and Stacy Per­man Hollywood · Italy · Spain · Crazy Rich Asians · Mahatma Gandhi · Joan Collins · Facebook · Alexander Nevsky · Alexander Kuritsin · Manila · Twitter · India · Singapore · Netherlands · Australia · Cuba · Beijing · Mexico · Germany · Argentina · Ma Rainey · Lisa Lu · Margaret Gardiner · William Shatner

When Hol­ly­wood stars de­liver ac­cep­tance speeches at Sun­day’s vir­tual 78th Golden Globe Awards cer­e­mony, they will no doubt make cer­tain to thank the Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press Assn., the tiny group of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists that doles out the cov­eted tro­phies.

But who ex­actly are the mem­bers of this in­su­lar, im­prob­a­bly pow­er­ful group?

The an­swers may come as a sur­prise to any­one un­fa­mil­iar with the HFPA’s long and of­ten scandal-rid­den his­tory, which in­cludes fresh al­le­ga­tions of self-deal­ing and eth­i­cal lapses de­tailed in a new Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The 87 cur­rent mem­bers of the Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press Assn. hail from a va­ri­ety of back­grounds, in­clud­ing sea­soned film re­porters for ma­jor pub­li­ca­tions like Sil­via Bizio, a con­trib­u­tor to Italy’s La Repub­blica, and Ro­cio Ayuso, a cor­re­spon­dent for Spain’s El País, as well as oth­ers who con­trib­ute spo­rad­i­cally to more ob­scure over­seas out­lets.

“A lot of them work with out­lets I’ve never heard of,” said a long­time pub­li­cist who worked un­til re­cently with a ma­jor stu­dio but de­clined to be named be­cause the per­son was not au­tho­rized to speak about clients’ busi­ness. “We give them amaz­ing ac­cess. We are forced to do that be­cause of who they are.”

An HFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the per­cep­tion that many mem­bers are not se­ri­ous jour­nal­ists is “out­dated and un­fair,” adding that the or­ga­ni­za­tion has “a ro­bust ad­mis­sions and reac­cred­i­ta­tion process” and that its mem­bers “write for some of the most rep­utable pub­li­ca­tions in the world.”

While many mem­bers keep a low pro­file, oth­ers are more col­or­ful. Mem­bers’ names and bios are not listed on the HFPA’s web­site, but ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments re­viewed by The Times, among those in the group are Chi­nese-born ac­tress Lisa Lu, who played the grand­mother in the 2018 hit film “Crazy Rich Asians”; for­mer beauty queen Mar­garet Gar­diner, who in 1978 be­came the first South African ever to win the Miss Uni­verse ti­tle; and In­dian-born Noel de Souza, who along­side his jour­nal­ism work played Ma­hatma Gandhi in an episode of “Star Trek: Voy­ager,” among other small film and TV roles.

One mem­ber, Yola Czader­ska-Hayek, is a wealthy so­cialite whose fond­ness for fur coats and jew­els has drawn com­par­isons to Joan Collins and who refers to her­self on her Face­book page as “the First Pol­ish Lady of Hol­ly­wood.”

An­other, Alexander Nevsky, is a Rus­sian body­builder-turned-ac­tor and film­maker who has pro­duced and starred in a num­ber of low-bud­get ac­tion films in­clud­ing “Max­i­mum Im­pact” and “Show­down in Manila.” (“I think I’m the only pro­ducer who can lift 100 pound dumb­bells and the only body­builder who votes for @gold­en­globes and pro­duces films,” Nevsky posted on Twit­ter in 2018 along with a video of him­self work­ing out in the gym.)

Geog­ra­phy is a some­what fluid con­cept in the HFPA, with mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing a some­times shift­ing map of ter­ri­to­ries rather than sim­ply coun­tries of origin. For in­stance, ac­cord­ing to a list of ac­tive mem­bers as of 2019, Me­her Tatna, a for­mer HFPA pres­i­dent from In­dia, rep­re­sented Singapore, while Theo Kingma, an­other ex-pres­i­dent who is from the Nether­lands, at one time rep­re­sented Aus­tralia and Cuba as well as his na­tive coun­try.

The as­so­ci­a­tion in­cludes three Amer­i­cans, Brent Si­mon, Vera An­der­son and Scott Or­lin, who have rep­re­sented China, Mexico and Ger­many, re­spec­tively. Un­til he died last year at age 94, a fourth, Jack Tewks­bury, rep­re­sented Ar­gentina.

An HFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the as­so­ci­a­tion does not “reg­u­late where mem­bers work or re­strict their abil­ity to earn a liv­ing.”

MEM­BER­SHIP GAP

While the HFPA’s ranks in­clude a num­ber of peo­ple of color, there are no Black mem­bers, a fact a rep­re­sen­ta­tive says the group is aware of and is “com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing.” The or­ga­ni­za­tion drew widespread crit­i­cism for this year’s slate of nom­i­na­tions, which did not in­clude any of this year’s Black-led po­ten­tial Os­car best picture con­tenders, in­clud­ing “Da 5 Bloods,” “Ju­das and the Black Mes­siah” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bot­tom,” among its fi­nal­ists for the group’s top film prize.

Asked about those crit­i­cisms, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive said: “We do not con­trol the in­di­vid­ual votes of our mem­bers,” adding, “We seek to build cul­tural un­der­stand­ing through film and TV and rec­og­nize how the power of cre­ative sto­ry­telling can educate peo­ple around the world to is­sues of race, rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and ori­en­ta­tion.”

Faced with sim­i­lar blow­back in the wake of the #Os­carsSoWhit­e con­tro­versy, the mo­tion picture academy has taken dra­matic steps in re­cent years to di­ver­sify its mem­ber­ship, mak­ing good on its 2016 pledge to dou­ble the num­ber of women and peo­ple of color in its ranks.

A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of mem­bers are el­derly. Ac­cord­ing to an an­titrust law­suit filed last year against the HFPA by Nor­we­gian jour­nal­ist Kjer­sti Flaa, one mem­ber in their 90s is deaf and legally blind. (Flaa’s suit was dis­missed by a fed­eral judge in Novem­ber, but an amended mo­tion to the suit is now pend­ing.)

“The HFPA em­braces and is proud of its older mem­bers, who have added so much to the or­ga­ni­za­tion and to en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ism over the years,” a rep­re­sen­ta­tive said.

Those who have in­ter­acted with the or­ga­ni­za­tion de­scribe mem­bers fall­ing asleep dur­ing screen­ings, hurl­ing in­sults at one an­other dur­ing news con­fer­ences and fre­quently en­gag­ing in per­sonal feuds. Mem­bers them­selves char­ac­ter­ize the group’s meet­ings as fre­quently con­tentious. Asked about the group’s no­to­ri­ous frac­tious­ness, an HFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive said, “In an or­ga­ni­za­tion com­prised of jour­nal­ists, there are a num­ber of strong opin­ions and spir­ited dis­cus­sions.”

As the mar­ket for their jour­nal­ism has dried up, some mem­bers have pur­sued out­side in­ter­ests and other ways to sup­ple­ment in­come. Fin­nish mem­ber Erkki Kanto, for ex­am­ple, has par­layed his fas­ci­na­tion with the an­cient Chi­nese art of face-read­ing, known as Mian Xi­ang, into two books on the sub­ject and a DVD: “Your Face Tells All.”

Pre­sented with gifts from stu­dios and celebri­ties, some have turned around and sold them on­line to make ex­tra money, said the for­mer stu­dio pub­li­cist.

Oth­ers have at times padded their in­comes in ways that have drawn fire from fel­low mem­bers. In 2017, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Wrap, Bangladesh­i mem­ber Mu­nawar Ho­sain was found to have scalped his Globes tick­ets for $39,000 after an in­ter­nal st­ing op­er­a­tion and was banned from re­ceiv­ing tick­ets to the event for the next two years. (In an email to The Times, Ho­sain de­nied any wrong­do­ing, say­ing he had given the tick­ets to a friend of a friend who then tried to sell them.)

After the in­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to an HFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the group took steps to in­crease the penal­ties for mem­bers sell­ing tick­ets and reg­u­larly works with “out­side coun­sel and pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors to un­cover any ev­i­dence of ticket sales.” But sev­eral sources say the prac­tice of scalp­ing tick­ets con­tin­ues. One mar­keter told The Times that a mem­ber of­fered to sell tick­ets to last year’s Globes for $10,000 along with after-party tick­ets for $2,000.

SIZE KEPT SMALL

Through­out its his­tory, the HFPA has main­tained its small size. In Oc­to­ber, the group ad­mit­ted three new mem­bers, but the net gain was neg­li­gi­ble, as two mem­bers died the same year.

The HFPA has long claimed it keeps its mem­ber­ship small in or­der to man­age its events and news con­fer­ences. How­ever, in his 2014 mem­oir, for­mer Pres­i­dent Philip Berk ac­knowl­edged, “Our ter­ri­to­rial pro­tec­tion­ism was in­deed car­ried to the ex­treme.” An HFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive said Berk’s views do not re­flect those of the or­ga­ni­za­tion and that the group “wel­comes any and all new mem­bers who share the mis­sion of bring­ing cul­tural un­der­stand­ing through film and TV.”

Re­jected ap­pli­cants and cur­rent mem­bers both claim that well-cre­den­tialed for­eign jour­nal­ists have been turned away from the group out of con­cern that they would en­croach on mem­bers’ pro­fes­sional turf.

“Lots of mem­bers aren’t se­ri­ous jour­nal­ists,” one mem­ber said. “We ad­mit peo­ple that are not real jour­nal­ists be­cause they are not a threat to any­one.”

For­eign en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ists who have at­tempted to join the HFPA, in some cases mul­ti­ple times, de­scribed con­certed ef­forts by ex­ist­ing mem­bers to block prospects who might com­pete with them, sub­ject­ing them, ac­cord­ing to Flaa’s suit, to “char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion at­tacks and dirty smear cam­paign[s].” The HFPA said Flaa’s claims are “en­tirely false,” while ac­knowl­edg­ing that the group has at times “un­der­taken dis­ci­plinary ac­tions for such be­hav­iors.”

Span­ish jour­nal­ist Rosa Ga­mazo, who has joined Flaa’s suit, said she tried mul­ti­ple times to join the group in re­cent years.

“There was this [mem­ber] — we got along re­ally well and she was try­ing to help me find a spon­sor,” Ga­mazo told The Times. “The other mem­bers warned her: ‘Do not talk to reg­u­lar jour­nal­ists. They’re not our kind. You need to stick to the group.’ ”

While work­ing as Hol­ly­wood cor­re­spon­dent for the lead­ing French news­pa­per Le Monde in the 1990s, Clau­dine Mu­lard was re­jected from the or­ga­ni­za­tion three times, with no rea­son given. “I was very qual­i­fied and ac­tively work­ing,” Mu­lard said. “At the time, I was the only for­eign mem­ber of the Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics Assn. But that didn’t mat­ter. After a while, I just didn’t in­sist. I thought they were ridicu­lous.”

Two years ago, Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Gil­lian Pringle and an­other for­eign jour­nal­ist sought to “end the tremen­dous com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage non-HFPA mem­bers face” by es­tab­lish­ing an­other for­eign press as­so­ci­a­tion open to all en­ter­tain­ment re­porters, ac­cord­ing to her dec­la­ra­tion in Flaa’s law­suit.

How­ever, Pringle said she was told “the HFPA would re­tal­i­ate against any pub­li­cist who granted us ac­cess to interview tal­ent and there­fore no pub­li­cist would.”

“I don’t un­der­stand why jour­nal­ists out­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion are treated as threats,” said Dan­ish jour­nal­ist Sara Ger­lach Mad­sen, adding she has had no work since the pandemic be­gan and is strug­gling to re­main in L.A. as a sin­gle mother. “The stu­dios, the pub­li­cists — ev­ery­one is just like, ‘This is how it is.’ ”

Twice re­jected by the HFPA, long­time Aus­trian en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ist Evie Sul­li­van said in a dec­la­ra­tion to Flaa’s suit that she was sub­jected to threats and char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion from a mem­ber of the group who ac­cused her of try­ing to en­croach on the HFPA’s turf. Sul­li­van ended up leav­ing jour­nal­ism and has em­barked on a new ca­reer as a hyp­nother­a­pist.

“To­day I’d rather have my toe­nails pulled than join the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Sul­li­van told The Times. “But it’s about jus­tice and help­ing my for­mer col­leagues who had suf­fered from the ac­tions of this group just like me.”

 ?? Christina House Los Angeles Times ?? S PA N I S H jour­nal­ist Rosa Ga­mazo has joined a law­suit against the HFPA.
Christina House Los Angeles Times S PA N I S H jour­nal­ist Rosa Ga­mazo has joined a law­suit against the HFPA.
 ?? Michael Ko­vac Getty Images ?? 2017: Then-HFPA Pres­i­dent Me­her Tatna, left, Kris­ten Bell, Al­fre Woodard, Sharon Stone, Gar­rett Hed­lund.
Michael Ko­vac Getty Images 2017: Then-HFPA Pres­i­dent Me­her Tatna, left, Kris­ten Bell, Al­fre Woodard, Sharon Stone, Gar­rett Hed­lund.
 ?? Jeff Kravitz FilmMagic ?? 2011: Then-HFPA Pres­i­dent Philip Berk and Milla Jovovich. A Berk mem­oir ad­mit­ted “pro­tec­tion­ism.”
Jeff Kravitz FilmMagic 2011: Then-HFPA Pres­i­dent Philip Berk and Milla Jovovich. A Berk mem­oir ad­mit­ted “pro­tec­tion­ism.”
 ?? Al­berto Ro­driguez NBC ?? 2016: HFPA’s Mu­nawar Ho­sain, right; Os­car Isaac.
Al­berto Ro­driguez NBC 2016: HFPA’s Mu­nawar Ho­sain, right; Os­car Isaac.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA