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JoBeth Williams smokes a joint in Steven Spielberg's 'Poltergeist' (1982).

For, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Golden Globes last Sunday were true to form, vulgar as all get-out and unwatchable in places. So this 12-year-old column seems fitting as it laments the entry of extreme vulgarism into mainstream entertainment and crudity at large. Sadly, things have only gone further downhill since then. Under the headline, ‘Golden Globes a surprisingly vulgar show,’ it was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 19, 2007.

Some 25 years ago I interviewed Steven Spielberg for “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Poltergeist” before they were released in the summer of 1982.

During the course of our conversation I told him that there was one thing about “Poltergeist” that bothered me. The main characters were meant to represent a typical suburban family, but one scene rang false, a moment where the parents sneak marijuana into their bedroom, hiding it from their kids.

I told Spielberg that I’m not naïve, I know there are people who smoke pot, but I added that most of my friends and acquaintances who used marijuana in the ’60s had given it up by the time they entered the workforce, married and began having children.

In other words, the scene might not be unrealistic in some circles but it struck me as false for a family that meant to have universal appeal, to represent the “everyfamily.”

Spielberg paused a moment and said, “Really? I’m surprised at that. All my friends smoke marijuana.”

The lesson I learned was that even Spielberg, “the people’s filmmaker” at the tie, could be as unduly influenced by the Hollywood community as anyone. From my perspective, he had fallen out of touch with Middle America.


'Grey's Anatomy' won the best dramatic TV series Golden Globe in 2007.

All of this came rushing back as I watched some of the Golden Globes broadcast on Monday.

I haven’t watched the Globes in many years. I don’t pay much attention to any of the many show-biz awards anymore. There are so many t hat they’ve become less meaningful than they were when there weren’t as many. And they weren’t terribly meaningful then.

Anyway, my wife and I were home on Monday so I decided to record the show while we watched a movie. When the movie was over we started watching the Globes, fast-forwarding through much of it, stopping to hear some of the stars we were interested in.

I was taken aback at how vulgar these shows have become.

We expect MTV’s award shows to be sleazy, and others that crop up on cable networks. And I know there have been incidents at the Grammys and other programs that have made viewers cringe. I also know that, these days, there doesn’t seem to be any clothing too revealing or level of crass behavior too low.

But I have to say that I was a bit surprised at Tom Hanks’ seemingly unrehearsed, sloppy and vulgar introduction for Warren Beatty’s career-achievement awards.

But he was topped by the tasteless-speech-of-the-night, given by Sacha Baron Cohen. Yikes!


Sacha Baron Cohen, and Warren Beatty with Tom Hanks at 2007 Golden Globes.

Baron Cohen, who won for his portrayal of “Borat” — a film that a lot of people have not seen, despite its being a touchstone for references that seem to suggest everyone on the planet has embraced it — gave a speech, which, in contrast to Hanks, was very well-rehearsed.

It was also woefully misguided and completely disgusting.

I realize that “Borat” was a box-office hit, and I know people who have seen it — and who defend it by saying that it is indeed sleazy, but that it’s also very funny.

You can say that about nearly every sitcom on TV, too. And I don’t watch those either.

I’m sad that audiences allow this kind of thing to pass for comedy.

I’m sad that it’s rewarded, with both money and congratulatory awards.

I’m sad that what was once left on the cutting-room floor passes for A-list entertainment these days.

Let’s just hope the Oscars don’t try to top the Golden Globes.