TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: People's Choice Awards score brownie pointswith the media

Notwithstanding a moment of heightened exuberance when Julia

Roberts appears, the press line for the People's Choice Awards functions

like a well-ordered graduation ceremony. Then the final arrival, Garth

Brooks, bolts the red carpet and tries to hurry inside before the show

starts.



Determined journalists leave their posts in pursuit, the line

disintegrating in their wake.



With the arrivals coverage completed and the telecast underway, media

director Sheri Goldberg takes a pause, for one breath, before phase two

begins backstage. That's where announced winners start filtering in to

face cameras and press queries. Goldberg has handled publicity for the

People's Choice Awards, either on her own or with a PR agency, for six

years. She told me this year's event was among the most successful, and

demanding, due to heightened security procedures.



"We had to cut the press line in half this year, forcing us to exclude

many of the European outlets that are normally invited," says

Goldberg.



"Photographers weren't permitted to line the street as in years past, so

we only accredited as many as could be reasonably situated along the red

carpet. It caused some dissension, but it was a necessary measure."



Journalists had to display driver's licenses along with press

badges.



(Some of us were caught squinting at birth dates.) Stickers were given

out on-site allowing admission to restricted areas, such as the

pressroom.



Last minute RSVPs, such as attempted by one local TV station, were

declined.



No accreditation? No admittance, no exceptions.



Seated in one of the three backstage pressrooms, I'm unable to come up

with any clever questions, just astute observations: "Damn, that trophy

sure looks heavy." (It is.) "These brownies are great, especially the

ones with nuts." During his Q&A, Kelsey Grammar makes a humorous aside

about the front-row journalist engaged in an intrusive cellphone

conversation.



I want to shout, "Hear, hear!" but I'm munching a brownie. My third.

Julia seems a bit edgy, despite her directive that we must all be nice

to each other.



Using star power and an effective advance campaign, Goldberg's staff

garnered terrific publicity for the show, evidenced by a four-point

ratings boost. Entertainment Tonight did daily stories starting a week

prior, and aired follow-up reports the following Monday and Tuesday. E!

did a two-hour pre-show, which received stellar ratings among the key

18-49 female demographic. Online sites tallying viewer votes registered

high numbers during the telecast.



Unlike last week's Golden Globes, which are selected by fewer than 100

foreign journalists, or the Oscars, which are determined by a secret

society of Freemasons and the Farm Bureau, the People's Choice Awards

are chosen by you and me. Not "The Man." Perhaps this explains why Jason

Alexander was a nominee for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television

Series, even though his show had tanked. That's what happens when

important decisions like this are left up to people like you and me.



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