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Stars, Globes & Griffin The GGs still get no respect

The Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy goes to … Kathy Griffin for her pre-show red carpet performance on E!

Or, it should. Griffin, a self-described “D-List celebrity” (“I'd like to think I was hovering around the C for a while, but then once you do “The Celebrity Mole” you jump straight to D -- that's it, there’s no coming back…”), rose to the occasion by treating the Golden Globe procession of stars, and her own role in covering it, with all the respect and seriousness they deserve.

At the beginning of the broadcast, when she was stuck at the end of the carpet with no one to talk to, she was unfazed, offering a majestic sweep of the hand and commenting: “There’s a big, big gathering here of assistants and publicists.”

“I do see Nicole Kidman coming down the red carpet, “ she said later, gazing off-screen, “and boy, is she wasted. Whoo! I guess it’s five o’clock somewhere!”

“Your ears are beautiful,” she told Clive Owen of “Closer.” “Are they real?”

“Have you guys ever gotten a hooker at this hotel?” she asked Michael Chiklis and his wife – referring to Merv Griffin’s sacred Beverly Hilton. “Now, you are very tiny,” she said to Mrs. Chiklis. “Can you name three carbs?”

To Dylan Walsh of “Nip/Tuck”: “Dylan, I noticed you’re not wearing any pins tonight of any kind,” she said with mock disgust. “Don’t you care about anything?”

For Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat, the young co-stars of “Arrested Development,” Griffin had a couple of “quick questions,” including: “Scientology or Kabala?”; “Atkins or South Beach?”; and “Purge or laxatives”?

“Who’s going to win ‘The Amazing Race’?” she asked just about anybody.

And whenever she pretended to succumb to the relentlessly flogged “glamour” of the occasion to pose the obligatory “Who are you wearing?” question, no matter what designer name was dropped she would instantly chirp: “Me, too!”

It was an inspired, sustained performance (two hours, on and off), and she never broke a sweat or seemed at all flustered, even when her interviewees were left momentarily speechless. (To be fair, most of her guest stars seemed to enjoy the joke and played along gamely).

Except for her co-host, that is, and that was maybe the best part of all.

Griffin was just being Griffin, doing what she does so deftly (deflating showbiz clichés), but you got the impression that -- how to put it delicately? -- her shocking lack of reverence for the rich and famous was absolutely mortifying to E!’s cluelessly self-absorbed and recently married schmooze-anchor Star Jones – excuse me, Star Jones Reynolds – who floated above the throng like a big, bejewelled Macy’s Thanksgiving parade balloon.

Jones Reynolds, whose nuptials took place in the not-terribly-distant past, was mounted atop a platform overlooking the fabled red carpet. Celeb after celeb climbed to her perch for the honor of being mindlessly splattered with flattery by Jones Reynolds, who is now a legal entity with a man. She scolded Griffin for her crack about Kidman: "Do not say anything mean against Nicole. She is my queen of the glamazons...."

Perhaps noting the possessive phrasing of that remark, Griffin responded by free-associating back at her in her best "I'm listening but I don't hear you" manner: "Good friend, close personal friend ... queen ... queens ... yes ... tiara ... halo..."

Oh, if only televised showbiz awards shows could be more like this.

Afterwards, the now-wedded Jones Reynolds (who insisted on emphasizing her married name as if announcing she’d just won a Nobel) told the Associated Press, “Do not relate me to her [Griffin’s] coverage. I had nothing to do with her being there. I'm not going to take responsibility for anything she said or did. It's so not me, it's not my style."

That’s an understatement. Especially coming from the matrimonially attached woman who introduced herself at the top of E!’s two-hour shag parade coverage by saying, “Welcome to the spillover from my wedding reception...”

Yes indeed, this was the very same wifely woman who, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunamis, noted somberly on the morning chatter show “The View” that just one month ago, on her honeymoon, she “was there” – and now, well, she just thanked God for sparing her every time she thought about it. This prompted Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” to wonder how far up her own posterior the not-currently-husbandless Jones Reynolds would have to be to assert that God had miraculously exempted her from a catastrophe that killed more than 165,000 people “only” a month after she’d been on a beach resort vacation in one of the stricken regions.

“It’s like saying, ‘I was almost killed in the Kennedy assassination because six months ago I rode in a convertible,” Stewart said.

But Jones Reynolds, who will be able to file a joint tax return for 2005, got one thing right in her prompter-spiel about the Golden Globes, and that was when she, Mrs. Jones Reynolds, said the evening wasn’t really about winning or losing but about having a party.

The members of the Globes’ sponsor organization, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (whom most Hollywood publicists know for their attendance at any event featuring a buffet), long ago realized that they don’t get any respect. Maybe it was around the time they infamously bestowed a metallic globule on Pia Zadora. And so, they’ve been playing up the “Hollywood party” aspect of their annual bash in the last few years, emphasizing the mingling of movie stars and TV stars in a big hotel ballroom where the wine flows like … wine. For about three or four hours. Followed by parties, in the suites upstairs and all over town.

Early on, the HFPA shrewdly managed to get a television contract for their show (first local, then syndicated, then network), and today millions of movie fans know about the Golden Globes from the glittery telecast, even if only a handful of people know anything about the 85-or-so individuals – some of them freelancers – who actually do the voting and nominating.

As Roger Ebert recently understated in an article about the movie awards season: “The Golden Globes are no doubt the best-known of the pre-Oscars, but not necessarily the most respected.”

And Jack Matthews, of New York Newsday wrote that he was glad, at last, that the Globes could no longer publicly boast undue influence over the Oscar nominations, because this year the abbreviated voting schedule meant Academy nomination ballots had to be received before the Globe winners were announced: “From now on," Matthews wrote, "the HFPA can't claim that their awards are any greater harbingers of Oscars than the awards of any other group.”

Well, maybe yes and maybe no. It’s conceivable that the publicity surrounding the Globes’ nominations could still influence lazy, weak and susceptible Academy voters. But everybody knows the real nominations to watch are those from the industry guilds whose membership roughly corresponds to those branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who actually determine the Oscar nominees – the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild (DGA), the Writers Guild (WGA), the Producers Guild (PGA), the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), and so on.

The individual Academy branch memberships vote to determine the nominations in their categories, and the entire, 8,000-member Academy votes for the winners.

At any rate, Ebert and Matthews accurately reflect the conventional wisdom in Hollywood, that a Golden Globe is not exactly a prestigious honor, but can make a fine and relatively inexpensive accessory to any Oscar publicity campaign -- no matter who you're wearing.

And you don't have to give it back to the designer when the show's over.

* * * *

(Full disclosure: The author is a longtime fan and social acquaintance of Ms. Griffin [she's married, too, BTW], from the time she was in the Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings in the 1980s -- when she was about the same age as Dakota Fanning -- and once co-wrote a part in a movie [“It’s Pat”] specifically for her, though it did not do a hell of a lot to boost her career.)

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