Electrical cords dangled from the ceiling. Tables were stacked against walls, rigging hardware strewn about. Ladders, lots of them, were being climbed by crew members with loud power tools.
Roughly 72 hours before Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and other stars were set to attend the Golden Globes inside the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom, the place was a mess. But come Sunday evening, when the awards show is televised on NBC, viewers will see only the sparkling results of months of planning — the Moet & Chandon Champagne flutes, the glitter-encrusted set, the pretty "celebuspawn" serving as trophy girl.
Unlike the Oscars or the Emmys, which are both held in theaters, the Golden Globes take place in a hotel and feature a sit-down meal. As a result, the show has a more intimate, glamorous old-time Hollywood vibe — stars can whisper into each other's ear or get drunk together; there are elaborate floral designs and table settings. It's kind of the dream dinner party.
"Any one of these people would be the biggest guest at anybody's dinner party, and yet there's over 200 of them sitting cheek by jowl," said Barry Adelman, the show's executive producer. "We try to just let the party happen, and I think that's why it's popular with the celebrities — because they know they can go and have a good time and there's not going to be a lot of restrictions on them."
Though that may be more fun for the attendees, there's a lot more for organizers to fret over when nominees aren't planted in a bland auditorium seat. Seating charts. Gluten-free meal options. Stocking the bar.
Oh, and it will be well-stocked: There will be 600 bottles of wine on site, plus 400 Champagne magnums 1,500 mini-bottles of Champagne. Plus all of the hard liquor.
And then the food: 40 pounds of herbs from a farm in Ventura, 200 pounds of black Tuscan kale, 1,300 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes. All to go into the three-course meal created by the hotel's executive chef, Troy Thompson, and of which includes a Waldorf salad, a surf & turf and a dessert trio. Thompson has been planning the menu since October, putting out 60 plates during tasting sessions before settling on the final meal. He tried to make it light — though given that this is 2015 Hollywood, he, of course, also has vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options ready to go.
"People are asking for things a little bit healthier, a little bit cleaner, not so much sauce or butter," he explained. "The last thing I want to do is fill these people up where they're showing like they ate too much. I always look at what comes back on the plate, but I'm not offended if there's food left. These people have million-dollar dresses and diamonds on. The last thing they want is to get red wine sauce on themselves."
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — the group of 80-plus members that votes for the awards — is in charge of the seating plan. After nominations were announced mid-December, board member Jorge Camara immediately began working on the chart. The ballroom's 112 tables fit 1,300 guests, all of whom are required to have connections to the entertainment industry. There are four levels in the room, and the biggest names — think Robert Downey Jr. or Oprah Winfrey — are packed into the lowest one, also known as "the pit."
Camara tends to keep film and television stars at separate tables, and if there are numerous nominees in attendance from one project, such as Emma Stone, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Alejandro G. Iñárritu for "Birdman," they're usually seated together. Clooney, who is receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award this year, will get an entire table for himself, but otherwise each nominee is allowed only to bring a plus-one. Not that they don't lobby for extra tickets.
"As soon as the nominations are announced, everybody sends a list of what they want, and of course we would need a place three times as large to accommodate the requests," said Camara, who has been a member of the HFPA since the '60s. "So we have to work them. 'You want 20 tickets, but you can only get 10.' If we can, we do. We try to make everybody happy."
And then there's the actual show, which is put on by Dick Clark Productions. Adelman, the company's executive vice president, began working on the script last month, though he won't see what hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's writing staff come up with until days before the show. In the meantime, he was sifting through the clips that studios sent to highlight each nominee's performance and figuring out who in the room would know each other.
"We have a master chart of where all the stars are sitting and what their connections are so we can get reaction shots," he said. "Like, 'This person used to work with this person,' or 'Remember when they dated? It would be interesting to see that reaction.' You have to be ready."
Rehearsals begin the day before the show on the finished stage. Early plans for the stage design were first laid out in August, when set designer Brian Stonestreet put together inspiration boards filled with architecture and fashion trends. After settling on an angular, deco motif, building began in November.
The stage is relatively small, only allowing for 18 feet of depth, so Stonestreet wanted to incorporate frosted glass to give the illusion of more space. He also settled on a relatively neutral color palette, an opalescent mixture of silver and gold, that would pick up light well.
"One thing we don't play with is the height of the stairs up the stage," he noted. "We keep it at a 6-inch rise. That's definitely the easiest on people and allows for an elegant walk-up. Even an inch off between the top step and the stage will throw a person's gait off."
Miss Golden Globe — the celebrity daughter who hands out the prizes — has to be particularly mindful of tripping hazards. This year, Kelsey Grammer's 22-year-old daughter, Greer, has been given the title, and for weeks she's been doing laundry in 5-inch heels to prepare for her duties.
"I'm mostly scared of dropping one of the Golden Globes and it breaking," said Grammer, whose father will attend the telecast. "But I've watched a lot of the past shows, so I think I should be OK."
She will be under the tutelage of Debbie Williams, who has been the Globes' lead stage manager for 28 years. Her rules? Don't wear a dress with a train. Watch old clips of Joely Fisher, Williams' favorite Miss Golden Globe ever. And don't be scared of the celebrity.
"Greer has to be a traffic cop," Williams said. "She needs to put a good strong hand on people's shoulders when they're coming off-stage. When a winner finishes their speech, they have no clue where they are. They are lost in the world. So she can't be shy or terrified. She has to confidently lead them where they have to go."
Those stars who cry their mascara off mid-speech will be greeted backstage by Bruce Grayson, the makeup artist who will be ready to give touch-ups. He's spending the final days before the telecast brushing up on the year's color trends.
"Sienna eye shadow is big right now, so I'll make sure I have two or three of those," said Grayson, who will have everything from Dior to Covergirl on hand. "But mostly what I do is wipe big blots of lipstick off of cheeks, because people are so happy to see each other that there's a lot of cheek kissing."
And if you were hoping to get a firsthand look at the action by booking a room at the Hilton this weekend, you're out of luck. The hotel, which has hosted the show 40 times, is shut down to the public, save for the 238 guests who bought a special two-night package starting at $3,100 that includes a seat on the red carpet bleachers. That sold out in late November.
'The 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards'
When: 5 and 8 p.m. Sunday