Strike Hits Hollywood Hard
Working Stiffs Take An $80 Million Beating In Golden Globes Cancellation
Hollywood's blue-collar infrastructure is going to take a beating this weekend.
With the Golden Globes, the town's famously party-hearty awards show, now reduced to a glorified news conference because of the writers strike, the couriers who deliver elaborate floral displays to winners, the waiters who keep their glasses filled with champagne, and the drivers who shepherd the drunks home after late-night parties will be sitting idly by - on what is ordinarily one of their most lucrative nights.
"Business has dropped. Dramatically," said Chris Heltai, owner of Home James, a service that drives celebrities and Hollywood executives home from events after they've had too much to drink.
He said his company had signed contracts this year with the sponsors of six major after-parties Sunday night.
"They all got canceled," Heltai said, adding he will have just a skeleton crew working on what is normally one of his two busiest nights of the year (the other is Academy Awards night). He expects to lose as much as $10,000.
Last year, half the cast of NBC's "Heroes" waited in line for an hour to get into the InStyle Warner Bros. bash, which attracted more than 1,000 people. Once inside, guests slurped up Godiva chocolate martinis and sampled other exotic fare.
InStyle Warner Bros., Fox Searchlight, E! Entertainment, HBO, NBC Universal-Focus Features and the Weinstein Co. announced this week they have all canceled their soirees.
HBO said its party, to have been catered by the Beverly Hilton Hotel, would have employed about 170 people.
Sunday won't be the first time that caterers, restaurateurs, party planners and others have suffered a financial sting since the strike, which began Nov. 5, doused Hollywood's party spirit with cold water.
Now that the walkout has claimed the first star-studded event of the town's awards season, the cold water could hit tidal-wave proportions. Many Hollywood denizens are wondering whether Academy Awards on Feb. 24 could be the next victim.
At The Woods Exquisite Flowers, workers are normally busy this week preparing elaborate floral arrangements that studios ship to the hotel rooms of Globe nominees. Even more elaborate displays are readied for the eventual winners.
Not this year.
"I would say it will probably affect us to the extent that we'll be down about 40 to 50 percent," said owner George Woods.
Meanwhile, Hollywood's fashionista brigade, those armies of hair stylists, makeup artists, dress designers and others, have no one to fuss over.
With no fancy awards show, studios aren't spending their usual small fortunes to dress their stars in the latest, most expensive styles.
"It really affects everybody," said Phillip Bloch, one of Hollywood's best-known stylists.
He had planned to dress Keisha Whitaker, wife of Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, for this year's Globes ceremony. But now that she and her husband are staying home, so is Bloch.
Veteran celebrity photographer Jim Ruymen says he will attend the news conference because the winners are still news.
But he won't be able to snap any photos of nominees such as Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Ellen Page or Nikki Blonsky on the red carpet - shots he says are typically "money in the bank" for a photographer.
"You can go to the well many times with what you shoot at awards shows," he said. "Not just domestically but internationally too. You can sell them on five continents."
Taking one of the biggest hits is the swanky Beverly Hilton Hotel, the longtime site of the awards show.
"The Beverly Hilton serves as the venue for some 175 red carpet events a year. The Golden Globes awards show, which has called the Beverly Hilton home for the last 34 consecutive years, is certainly the highlight," hotel spokeswoman Lynda Simonetti said.
Canceling the show is expected to cost the Los Angeles area economy about $80 million, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
And Kyser estimates that some $1.4 billion in wages alone have been lost in the region since the strike began.
Those losses have become the talk of the town, said caterer Michael Brooks, adding that the Globes have brought greater attention to the situation from people outside the industry.
Things have gotten so tight, Brooks said, that his dog walker recently inquired about opportunities in the catering business, since it seems striking writers and idled actors are walking their own dogs these days.