Cuba Gooding Jr. was dancing when he saw the women carrying the buckets—white with red and blue flourishes, the buckets looked familiar, even if they were wildly unfamiliar in these environs: the ultra-lux, max-security post-Golden Globes party hosted on Sunday night by Netflix and the Weinstein Company, always held in a custom-built, stadium-size tent outside the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.
The actor saw the buckets emblazoned on their side with the face of Colonel Sanders and he stopped dancing.
“Is that Kentucky Fried Chicken?” exclaimed Gooding, Jr., flailing his arms up and down in ecstasy. “Which of you ordered me Kentucky Fried Chicken!?”
In fact, there was an ample supply of the fast-food fried chicken at the annual Golden Globes bash, and it was being devoured by tuxedoed gents and girls in billowy ball gowns. And like all of the night’s spectacles, the guilty pleasure of KFC at the year’s swankiest party was escapism from the matters at hand: in a little over a week, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States.
The Globes are always the most freewheeling of awards shows, with the boozy ceremony starting at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time and segueing into celebrity-mobbed, debauched galas on site at the Hilton. This year, though, seemed even more intent on embracing anything that distracts us from harsh reality, starting with Jimmy Fallon's homage to the feel-good musical La La Land and ending with that film's coronation, as it picked up more Globes than any other in history.
Escapism through the power of cinemascope and technicolor is a time-honored tradition in America, from William Wyler's World War II classic The Best Years of Our Lives to Kathryn Bigelow's more recent The Hurt Locker, but Hollywood is increasingly eager to break the fourth wall and speak truth to power. While they may have once been reluctant to get political at these occasions for fear of getting mocked as effete, privileged pinkos, Meryl Streep's lifetime achievement award speech may have been a watershed moment, giving Hollywood's creative elite the license to challenge Washington for the first time since the McCarthy era. At the after parties on Sunday, performers of every stripe seemed eager to join Streep's call.
“I think that she’s a queen, and I love that she’s challenging us all to hold those in the position of power accountable for the abuse of their power," said Janelle Monáe, the singer who appears in two of the season's most critically acclaimed films, Moonlight* and *Hidden Figures. "It’s so important to have her influence and her voice remain on the right side of history.”
Ruth Negga was name-checked by Streep during her speech as a sign of Hollywood's polyglot culture, a woman who was born in Ethiopia, raised in Ireland, and nominated for playing a small-time girl from Virginia in Loving.
“Her whole speech was rousing and akin to a battle cry for the defense of art and democracy,” Negga said. “There was not one dry eye on the table. She was speaking for and through everybody else. This is a chance for us all to speak up now and not remain complacent. We all have a responsibility to tell the truth."
Many other pop culture figures, some in the room, have publicly confirmed their participation in the Women's March protest taking place following the inauguration.
Evan Rachel Wood, nominated for Westworld, felt vindicated by Streep's words. "Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean your voice doesn’t have value," the actress said. "It makes sense to me that more and more artists are starting to be more vocal because you have to take that chance when you have it."
No less a figure than Iggy Pop, the legendary punk icon who nominated for writing a song for the film Gold, praised Streep's “courage and sincerity.”
So, what was the big deal? Why was there such vitriol directed at Streep the day following the awards? Why did Meghan McCain tweet, "This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won." As it so happened, the comedian Billy Eichner responded to McCain in real time and then elaborated on the subject at the Warner Bros./InStyle event. "All she said was [Trump] shouldn’t make fun of the disabled and she supported freedom of speech and the arts," Eichner continued. "Don’t tell me I'm living in a bubble. I'd rather live in a bubble with people who cared about the disabled and a free press than live wherever Meghan McCain is living. There was nothing controversial about what Meryl Streep said and any controversy around it just shows you the level of discourse they’re at."
In the controversy that erupted after the awards about Hollywood's elitism, it was overlooked that there are some prominent conservative figures in the entertainment business–the President-elect among them–who are just as privileged as their liberal counterparts. During the ceremony, Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn could be seen making somewhat exasperated faces as Streep spoke. And lumbering through champagne-popping and cocktail-swilling Warner Bros./InStyle party was Jon Voight, the Oscar winner who not only publicly supported Trump during the presidential campaign but narrated the biographical video that introduced the candidate at the Republican National Convention.
“I‘m saddened to hear that [Streep] did that, but it’s a free country and that’s one of our freedoms, that was her choice. I wouldn't have been comfortable with that,” Voight said.
When it was explained to Voight that the speech specifically took issue with Trump's mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter, Voight accused the press of twisting Trumps' words in the first place, and doubled down on defending his candidate.
"You have to understand that Donald Trump is a doer. He's a great listener and he's very successful because of it. He works harder than anybody we’ve seen in public office," Voight continued, never mind that Trump hasn't yet taken office. "All these senators and congressmen can’t keep up with him. He has a tremendous metabolism and he always has good cheer and he never gets down and he never gets negative. People don't see that, they want to portray him as an imbecile or whatever you want. The things I see with Trump, the things that I see him saying and doing are impressive to me and I'm very grateful for that."
Naturally, Voight said proudly, he'll be attending the inauguration. "I'm very excited," he said, and left to prowl the room alone, a conservative interloper in the thick of celebrity debauchery and privilege. So much for Hollywood elitism.
Did Streep's message sink in? Will these actors and actresses and studio executives, even the who identify as progressives, suddenly take to the streets and walk the walk. It was telling, in the show's post mortems, even the ones that ran in traditional new media, that few if any studio executives spoke on the record about their reaction to the speech, no doubt wary of upsetting the volatile President-elect.
There was also a brief attempt to talk politics with Hollywood macher Harvey Weinstein, a longtime left-wing operative in the Hollywood/Beltway nexus.
“There are celebrities here,” Weinstein deadpanned, suggesting there were much bigger gets in the crowd at his Grey Goose-sponsored party, though perhaps few with his reach and influence.
In this town, the party must always go on. Like a tearjerker that ends with a moment of catharsis, Streep's speech may have resonated in the moment, but by the time the credits rolled, this crowd was a little too eager to move on. At around 1 a.m., at the William Morris Endeavor after party at the Chateau Marmont, Emma Stone was attempting to Nae Nae as Brie Larson and Elle Fanning entered the dance-floor. In the courtyard, Ben Affleck wove through the crowd, playing wingman to his Globe-winning brother Casey, was overwhelmed by well-wishers.
The rapper Wiz Khalifa smoked a stupendous blunt while Michelle Williams shared a cigarette with Lion star Dev Patel. Damien Chazelle, the 31-year-old director who took home all those Golden Globes for helming La La Land, was watching as one of his statuettes got passed around among fellow producers and stars and friends—and DeAndre Jordan, the 6’ 11” center for the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Hey Damien, is it OK if I hold this?” Jordan yelled across the table.
“Sure, go ahead!” Chazelle said.
“Don’t worry, I won’t drop it, I’ve got big hands,” Jordan responded.
As the Golden Globe made its way around the table, for some reason it ended up being offered to me. Reader, a Golden Globe is heavy. It feels good to hold. It was an escape, not unlike the movie for which it was won and for every second I was holding the statuette, I didn’t think about our President-elect once.