• Golden Globe Awards

Starry Nights With The Globes At the Cocoanut Grove

Cocoanut Grove

The Cocoanut Grove

Nearly three decades after it opened, the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel was still the hottest night spot in Southern California in 1950, attracting the biggest stars in an endless celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood. So naturally it was a perfect match for the 7th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony. The still-fledging awards event, put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, had already visited four venues in its brief history – from Fox Studios to the Beverly Hills, Hollywood Knickerbocker, and Hollywood Roosevelt hotels. But for the next two decades, with only four exceptions the Awards would make their home at the Cocoanut Grove.

In those days before the existence of personal publicists and the kind of media and press overload the entertainment industry experiences today, the very concept of marketing to the foreign market seemed somewhat elusive and inaccessible – which was the very reason this group of international journalists had come together to try as a collective to bridge that gap. As recent expats from their respective countries, some of the members seemed colorful and even exotic as they adapted to their new lives in Hollywood. Imagine the delicious visual of the mustachioed Unger twins, Bertil – wearing his monocle in his left eye, and Gustav, wearing his monocle in the right, and both corresponding for Scandinavian publications. At the 1954 Awards banquet, another set of twins, Amad and Aly Sadick, got into fisticuffs with the Ungers – an unfortunate bit of drama but one that guests seems to take in their stride.

The night of the Globes is always memorable but one standout at the Cocoanut Grove was in 1954 – the year the hottest star in the room, Marilyn Monroe, was upstaged when all eyes followed actress Vicki Dugan, whose dress left little to the imagination on the backside. Not that it mattered to Marilyn, who still got plenty of love as she clutched her trophy for the World’s Favourite Actress, at that time called the Henrietta Award. Marilyn, being Marilyn, knew how to work the press, and in the end she and her Globe were the most photographed couple of the night. Nothing was going to stop the flow of champagne and laughter at what was already considered the best party in town.

The first telecasts of the Globes were from 1958-1963 but were only aired locally in L.A. Then the Globes’ telecast went national during a special segment on The Andy Williams Show beginning in 1964.

Phil Elwell, who was a waiter at the Grove during those telecasts, has supplied the HFPA with the schedule and script of the telecast for the 1966 show, which now rest in the HFPA archives. The star guests then included Jerry Lewis, Barbara Stanwyck, Mia Farrow, Ben Gazzarra, Dean Martin, Joanne Woodward, Claudia Cardinale, Gene Kelly, Jill St. John, Dorothy Malone, Lorne Greene and Vince Edwards.

The documents include the transcript of the welcoming remarks by then-president Bertil Unger, and the script for commercials for Kraft Cheez Whiz and Kraft Strawberry Preserves.

“It was a wonderful, star-studded night, recalls Phil Elwell, who went on to open the highly successful Olde King’s Head British pub in Santa Monica. “I was present at one of the meetings at the Ambassador and I remember Bertil Unger telling the members: ‘This awards show will grow and grow and become as famous as that other awards show.’

“He was so right.”

Vera Anderson