The 52nd Golden Globe Awards hadn't even started, and stars ranging from Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant to Jodie Foster and Ellen DeGeneres were slowly making their way down the heaving line of press photographers when a limousine caught fire in front of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Suddenly, half a dozen or so valet parking attendants rushed forward to push the car down a ramp, as smoke billowed toward the front entrance and the celebrities dressed in their formal evening attire.
"It's Hollywood," quipped "Pulp Fiction's" Samuel Jackson. "You sure it's not special effects?"
A few years ago, a car fire in front of the Golden Globes might have invited smirks. After all, the awards show was then seen as something of a joke in Hollywood, not to be taken seriously. But, today, all that has changed. This year, big movie and TV stars made appearances at the show as did studio chiefs such as Sherry Lansing of Paramount Pictures, Bob Daly of Warner Bros., Mark Canton of Columbia Pictures/TriStar Pictures and Joe Roth of Walt Disney Studios.
Few events offer such a wide range of celebrities. This one attracted the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tim Allen, Brad Pitt, Heather Locklear, Dudley Moore, Sharon Stone, Rosie Perez, Joan Collins, Diana Ross, Joey Lawrence, David Hasselhoff and Sophia Loren--not to mention the cast of "E.R.," who walked en masse into the hotel's International Ballroom.
Arriving to shouts of "Forrest! Forrest!," Hanks said he knew exactly how the slow-witted Forrest Gump would respond if he had just arrived at the Golden Globes and seen the hundreds of photographers and fans screaming for his attention.
"He'd already be inside," Hanks said, motioning with his hand, as if to say Gump would have run as fast as he could, just like he did on that football field in the movie.
As it turned out, Hanks had a cold Saturday night and didn't feel like doing much running, even after he won the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama in "Forrest Gump." Hanks said people now follow him around asking him to do Forrest Gump impressions. "I ate so many chocolates," he said, his voice trailing off.
"Gump," in fact, went on to win its share of Golden Globes, a feather in the cap for Paramount Pictures, which released the movie and has seen it become a runaway hit. In addition to Hanks, the film itself won best drama and Robert Zemeckis took one home for best director.
The Golden Globes is often seen as a precursor to the Oscars, which are given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Hanks joked that he heard that the Oscars are actually now a precursor to the MTV Awards.
The Golden Globes, an annual event put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., is less formal than the Academy Awards. Perhaps for that reason, many of the winners and presenters were feeling loose backstage as they fielded questions from the press.
Quentin Tarantino, who wrote and directed the critically acclaimed "Pulp Fiction," won a Golden Globe for best screenplay. As he stepped to the podium, he looked more like a stand-up comic as he greeted everyone in his best Elvis impersonation: "Thank you. Thank you very much." Then he launched into one of the more lively press conferences of the evening.
Asked how it felt to win, he said: "When you go to an awards ceremony, it's awful darn nice to win." Then cackling, he went on: "It's like going to a dance and being asked to dance. It's like, 'Hey . . . cool.' "
What are some of your favorite scenes, people wanted to know. "Right now, my favorite thing in 'Pulp Fiction' is the way John Travolta says, 'OK, when are you gonna buy the intercom?' You know, like that never ceases to tickle me."
Asked to compare "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump," which many see as the favorites going into the Academy Awards, Tarantino replied:
"Everyone in the press is saying 'Forrest Gump' represents this. And, 'Pulp Fiction' represents the exact opposite end of the spectrum. And here they are battling it out. But my table (at the Golden Globes) was right next to the 'Forrest Gump' people, and I said, 'Look, is it just me, or is everybody completely misreading your movie?' It was a really funny movie and filled with more irony than any Hollywood movie I had ever seen in my life. . . . I don't really think they are that different, to tell you the truth."
Zemeckis, for his part, said his favorite line in "Gump" is: "Sometimes, there aren't enough rocks."
Jamie Lee Curtis was so exuberant after winning a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy for the movie "True Lies" that she bounded on the backstage podium. "This is the greatest part I ever had, and certainly the biggest movie," she said.
When a reporter asked if she thought Schwarzenegger was getting a "bad rap" for not being considered a real actor because he often appears in action movies, Curtis caused a ripple of laughter when she shot back: "I believe he has been nominated for best actor in a comedy. . . . Maybe you should go take it up with him."
Jessica Lange, who was a surprise winner of the best dramatic actress award as the angry Army wife in "Blue Sky," said the movie had been completed nearly four years ago and, so, to win now is "kind of an unexpected treat."
Martin Landau, who won best supporting actor in a comedy for his role as Bela Lugosi in the movie "Ed Wood," used his moment to praise the late actor, who won fame as Dracula in the movies.
"Jack Nicholson called me and he said, 'One of the damn best things I've ever seen in my life,' " Landau said, mimicking Nicholson's distinctive voice. "I said, 'It was a love letter to Lugosi.' He said, 'It's a love letter to acting.' Well, that's a nice thing."
There were more serious moments, like Raul Julia's widow accepting the Golden Globe award in his honor, telling reporters afterward: "He was a wonderful husband, father and human being" and noting that the outpouring of his fans since his death shows how well loved he was.
Rock star Elton John, who won with Tim Rice for writing the music for "The Lion King," also waxed serious, saying he has overcome personal problems and that his career has never been better. "I've been given a second chance in life," he said. "I now want to give something back. It's just something I have to do."
And, Schwarzenegger, when asked where his wife, Maria Shriver, was that Saturday night, said she had taken a plane flight to Hyannisport, Mass., with their children because Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy clan, was "very ill."
In addition to movies, Golden Globes were awarded in various television categories.
One of those who won was Claire Danes, who picked up a statuette for best actress in a TV series for "My So-Called Life."
The 15-year-old Danes thanked another young actress, Winona Ryder, for giving her advice on how to handle the transformation from being a teen to a young adult in Hollywood without losing oneself. "You can get so wrapped up in this whirlwind," she said.
The arrivals themselves were often more entertaining than the telecast.
Jamie Lee Curtis, wearing a white velvet outfit that clung to her body, remarked: "No foundation. No nothing. It's just as God intended."
Cybill Shepherd, asked why she decided to wear a white jacket and white gloves, replied: "Because Dudley Moore is wearing black." Moore was a co-presenter with Shepherd on the telecast. When a reporter asked why the boots, Shepherd said: "I wanted to make sure I towered over him."
Lizzy Gardiner, the costume designer on the movie "The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert," caused photographers to fall all over themselves when she came dressed in a pink fur tutu. Asked how she liked the Golden Globes, Gardiner said: "It's funny. The policemen even have pancake makeup on."
Jodie Foster, wearing a black pants suit, said the Golden Globes gave her a chance to dress up, "which I only do twice a year."
Hugh Grant, who captured a Golden Globe as best actor in a comedy for "Four Weddings and a Funeral," said he was overwhelmed by the event. "I'm not accustomed to this amount of glitz," the British actor said in a proper accent. He noted that the weirdest question he had been asked by the foreign press while making his way to the hotel entrance was, "What is your inner child saying right now?"Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times