The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is best known for throwing a star-studded party every year where they hand out the second biggest awards (after Oscar) in the film industry, the Golden Globes. A lesser known fact is the HFPA’s commitment to charity. Every summer they celebrate their philanthropic work at their Annual Grants Banquet.
This August, $3.25 million went to more than 60 entertainment-related nonprofit organizations, scholarship programs, and humanitarian groups. These vary from restoration and film preservation to colleges and schools, from children’s hospitals to female and minority filmmaker labs and workshops, from refugee camps to journalistic training, from inner city programs to film festivals. There is even local Los Angeles based organizations like Pablove, where cancer-stricken kids learn how to become photographers at summer camps as well as worldwide causes like the International Rescue Committee and Film Aid. The benefactors of the money made each year from network fees paid for the right to the Golden Globes are endless.
The generous donations are not limited to the day of the gala: during the rest of the year aid relief is often given when natural disasters strike, as was the case with the Tsunami in Thailand, the earthquake in Haiti and the typhoon in the Philippines. At the Cannes Film festival last year, former British Secretary of State, David Miliband accepted a grant for the IRC. This year it was the Kailash Satyarti Childrens Foundation in India that benefitted. All in all, the HFPA has donated over $20 million just in the last decade.
This year’s gala was the biggest so far. It was held – for the first time – in the Beverly Hilton ballroom, the same venue as the Golden Globes. “Shameless” leading man William H. Macy took the stage and led the evening as emcee. “There will be no colluding, fake news, nepotism, tweets, swamp draining, document checking, boats being untied and sent adrift or alternative facts,” said Macy. “Tonight, we are here to do good; and by that, I mean give out more than $3 million to various worldwide charities, educational institutions and community support groups.” He also joked about the evening’s seating arrangements. In the ballroom during the Globes and other big award shows, only the absolute top-tier talent and Hollywood’s A-listers get to sit in the coveted “pit”, that area of only 10 tables in front of the stage. As Macy pointed to TV-actors, newcomers and some producers, he laughed: “Enjoy it while it lasts! Come January, at the Golden Globes, you’re all gonna sit back up there on second and third tier!”
The evening got more serious for a few minutes when Steve Carell presented a $250,000 donation to RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. The Texas-based 501(c)(3) promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES has been instrumental in the fight to reunite families who were recently separated at the border. Added HFPA-president Meher Tatna: “I am an immigrant. So are ninety-nine percent of my colleagues in the HFPA. We came to this nation, as every immigrant does, because we believed in the promise of America for a better life. We found that better life in our adopted land, and found each other in our Association. So our mandate, going back 75 years, has always been to give back to the people and the country that have been so good to us, as well as to so many organizations around the globe. So this year, no cause was dearer to our hearts than the donation we made to RAICES.”
The mood got lighter again, when a statuesque Charlize Theron in a very lowcut Givenchy dress talked about Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, and it got downright hilarious when Regina King and John David Washington (Denzel’s son who stars in Spike Lee’s brilliant “BlacKkKlansman“) had to riff on and on because the next presenters hadn’t made it onstage yet. Where were the multi-hyphenate Lena Waithe, director, writer, producer and showrunner, and her friend Cynthia Erivo, one of the best voices that has happened to Broadway in a decade? Chatting it up with Jennifer Garner backstage and totally missing their cue which they made up for by being extra funny. The good mood carried over to the green room where they
hammed it up with fellow presenter Regina King.
Cynthia Erivo, a Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner from South London who will also be seen in two movies this year, took the stage in the middle of the evening and brought the house down with her rendition of “Home” from “The Wiz”. She took a bow to deafening applause and a standing ovation, leaving the whole room in tears.
It was synergy for the stars of the wonderful FX-series “Pose”, Billy Porter and MJ Rodriguez, that Erivo sang the same song on stage, the two of them had done in their last episode of season 1. They, too, presented a few grants, as did directing duo Jason Reitman and Alfonso Cuaron, Alfre Woodard, Connie Britton, Chris Messina, Nia Long, John Cho, Jason Bateman, Dakota Fanning, breakout stars Cody Fern (“American Crime Story: Versace”) and Joey King, leading actress of “The Kissing Booth”.
Amber Heard vamped it up in a glittery mini dress by St. Laurent, and behind the stage a “Mr. Robot” reunion took place when Rami Malek ran into Christian Slater. Christian and I joked about our looooooong friendship, dating back to when we were both 16, and I took him to a nightclub in Vienna where he was promoting his first film “The Name of the Rose” with Sean Connery. “In the US we would have never gotten away with going to a club this young!” he laughed. Rami Malek and Amber Heard got a good laugh from the audience when she referred to their recent shared Queen experiences: “You play Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, and I am Mera, queen of the sea, in Aquaman!”
One legend who was missing from the night’s show, was Dick Van Dyke who had to cancel because of a pinched nerve. His last minute replacement were Dawn-Lyen Gardner, star of Oprah’s TV-series “Queen Sugar” and young Brit Ben Hardy who has a legendary connection of his own – he can be seen as the drummer of famed band Queen in the upcoming “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Dawn-Lyen Gardner started by saying: “Dick Van Dyke was supposed to be standing here now to present a grant, but sadly had to withdraw earlier today – but he’s ok. In his honor, Ben and I were prepared to do our “Mary Poppins” medley but due to time constraints, all we can do is –“ before breaking into “SUPERKALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS” to the delight of an already slightly inebriated audience (a lot of Moët et Chandon, the official sponsor of the Golden Globes was served).
The party continued downstairs in the pool bar where we ordered pizzas and truffle fries – and a few tequilas – to end the evening.