For a night known as Hollywood's most notorious open-bar gala, the Golden Globes ceremony remains shrouded in mystery. Most viewers probably don't even know who presents it (the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), how many voting members it has (only about 90), or what qualifies them to pass judgment on movies and television (they're Hollywood-based journalists -- some part-time, some full-time -- who write about film and TV for various overseas outlets).

Yet movie fans and awards mavens continue to take the Globes seriously as a precursor to the Academy Awards, since some of the Globe honorees will indeed go on to win Oscars. Others simply enjoy the Globes ceremony as one helluva wingding, where alcohol-fueled stars really loosen up in public. Either way, the Globes have a colorful history of glamour, scandal, and (occasionally) recognition of some of Hollywood's best work. With that legacy poised to continue when a cheeky Ricky Gervais returns for his third hosting gig at the 69th annual Golden Globes on Jan. 15, here's a list of some of the ceremony's hidden history of highlights and lowlights.

1. Founded in October 1943 by eight foreign-market journalists, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (then called the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association) held its first awards ceremony the following spring, as a luncheon at 20th Century Fox. Instead of trophies, the winners in five categories -- Best Motion Picture, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress -- took home scrolls. Best Picture went to "The Song of Bernadette."

2. The next year, the foreign press group held the ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but the young group had so little money to stage the event that it solicited actress Joan Bennett's gardener to supply the flowers for the centerpieces.

3. Bette Midler raised eyebrows with her speech in 1980, when she won a pair of trophies for her film debut in "The Rose" (Best Actress and Best New Female Star). Purporting to quote Joan Crawford, she mimed cupping her breasts and said, "I'll show you a pair of Golden Globes!"



4. For the first 14 years, the Globes were presented by HFPA journalists, But in 1958, Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. stormed the stage, wielding whiskey glasses and cigarettes, and began riffing. They were a hit, and the next year, they were asked back as presenters. Now all the awards are presented by celebrities, just like at the Oscars.

5. The Globes first handed out a career achievement prize in 1952, to legendary director and Hollywood founding father Cecil B. DeMille. The award has been named for him ever since. (This year's DeMille winner is Morgan Freeman.)

6. Since 1961, the Globe ceremony has been held at the (now luxuriantly retro) International Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hilton.

7. The Miss Golden Globe tradition, in which a starlet helps the presenters usher the winners on and off the stage, began in 1963. Originally, there were two Miss Golden Globes, one for TV and one for film. Today, there's just one, and she's traditionally the daughter of a star. (This year, it's Rainey Qualley, whose mom is Andie MacDowell.)

8. The Globes were first televised nationally in 1964, as a segment on "The Andy Williams Show." Shirley MacLaine won Best Actress for "Irma La Douce," but her speech was abruptly cut by a commercial break.

9. NBC stopped airing the show in 1968, after the Federal Communications Commission complained that the HFPA "misled the public as to how the winners were determined." According to the FCC, the judges would choose winners based on attendance; if the chosen star didn't show, they'd pick someone who did. The HFPA revised its voting procedures and handed over the responsibility of tallying the votes to an outside accounting firm, as the Oscars do. NBC lifted its ban and resumed broadcasting the show in 1975.

10. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," one of only three films in Oscar history to win the top five awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay), was the first (and only) movie to pull off the same feat at the Golden Globes, in 1976. (The winners were actor Jack Nicholson, actress Louise Fletcher, director Milos Forman, and screenwriters Bo Goldman and Laurence Hauben.) The movie won a sixth Globe for Best Movie Debut, for co-star Brad Dourif.

11. The most nominated movie ever was 1975's "Nashville," with nine nods, but it won only one, for "I'm Easy," the song composed by Keith Carradine, who also sang it in the film. He went on to win the Oscar for the song as well.

12. Before he was famous as a conspiracy theorist, Oliver Stone was a Globe winner for his screenplay for "Midnght Express." His 1979 speech turned into a tirade against U.S. drug policy (a theme relevant to his movie) that soon had the audience booing and presenter Chevy Chase urging him to just say thank you and exit. Finally, security guards approached, and Stone left the dais.

13. Group president Marina Cisternas designed the trophy in 1946, envisioning a golden globe encircled by a strip of film. The strip is delicate and flimsy, and more than one honoree (including Laurence Olivier) has accidentally broken it even before leaving the podium.

14. The Globes took the biggest hit to their credibility in 1982, when Pia Zadora won the Best New Female Star prize for her campy turn in the exploitation melodrama "Butterfly," a movie that hadn't even opened theatrically at the time of the nominations. (Among the actresses she beat: Elizabeth McGovern in "Ragtime" and Kathleen Turner in "Body Heat.") The award was widely assumed to be payback to Zadora's husband, casino mogul Meshulam Riklis, who had treated some HFPA members to a lavish junket at his Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas (where Zadora had a nightclub act) and to an extravagant luncheon at his house. A couple years later, the group stopped giving out the New Star awards altogether.

15. Everyone remembers that Christine Lahti was in the bathroom when she was announced as a winner for TV's "Chicago Hope" in 1998. Not as many remember that the same humiliating moment befell Renee Zellweger three years later. Like the rest of the world, she didn't expect to hear her name called when the winner was announced for Best Actress in a Comedy, so she was flush with embarrassment when she won the prize for "Nurse Betty" while she was otherwise occupied.

16. Ties are extremely rare at the Oscars, less so at the Globes. In 1949, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "Johnny Belinda" tied for Best Picture.

17. The only three-way tie in Globe history occurred in 1989, when the Best Actress award was shared among Jodie Foster ("The Accused"), Shirley MacLaine ("Madame Sousatzka") and Sigourney Weaver ("Gorillas in the Mist").

18. Jamie Foxx holds a record for the most nominations in a single year. He came into the 2005 ceremony with three nods, for his role in TV movie 'Redemption,' his supporting role in the big-screen thriller 'Collateral,' and his lead role as Ray Charles in 'Ray.' The 'Ray' performance won him the Globe (and the Oscar, and pretty much every other award on the planet).

19. Sometimes romance blossoms amid the boozing at the Globes. Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford met when she accidentally spilled wine on him at the 2002 ceremony.

20. The Globe voters once nominated a fictional character for a screenwriting award. The nomination came in 2003 for the "Adaptation" screenplay, credited to real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his imaginary brother Donald, both of whom were played in the film by Nicolas Cage. The Oscars later went on to nominate Donald Kaufman as well.

21. In 2008, the Globes were pre-empted by the Writers Guild strike. NBC simply ran a two-hour episode of "Dateline" instead, while the winners were announced via press conference.

22. The red carpet hasn't been immune to controversy. In 2005, Kathy Griffin joked that 10-year-old Dakota Fanning was entering rehab, which led to a forced on-air apology from the E! channel, a donation from the channel to Fanning's favorite charity and Griffin's firing from future E! awards show coverage. The following year, E! red carpet interviewer Isaac Mizrahi generated complaints for grabbing Scarlett Johansson's breasts during their chat. Maybe the designer was measuring her for a gown.

23. The most notorious backstage interview came in 2007, among the "Grey's Anatomy" cast, in which Isaiah Washington tried to deny that he'd slurred co-star T.R. Knight but still managed to drop the word "f-ggot" into his defense. Washington soon left the drama series under a cloud of controversy.

24. Worst fashion faux pas? Probably Lara Flynn Boyle's notorious ballerina tutu, along with her David Cardona leotard and lace-up slippers, worn in 2003. Runner-up: Whoopi Goldberg's yellow track suit, worn at her first Globe appearance in 1986.

25. Allegations of payola surfaced again just last year when Columbia's thriller 'The Tourist' was nominated for Best Comedy/Musical, as was the studio's "Burlesque." (Also nominated, for their lead roles, were "Tourist" stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.) Both movies had underwhelmed critics, and it was a real stretch to call the mildly tongue-in-cheek "Tourist" a comedy, but it came out that the studio had flown HFPA members to Vegas on a junket that included a private concert by "Burlesque" star Cher. (It was almost the same situation as the "Butterfly" scandal three decades before.) There was no proof of a quid pro quo, and in the case of "The Tourist," there might not even have been one. Rather, its nominations were a way of ensuring that Depp and Jolie would show up on the red carpet. The HFPA may have a mixed record when it comes to taste or integrity, but it certainly knows how to put together a guest list and throw a party.
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