Golden Globes 'forced writer to suicide'

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organisation responsible for the Golden Globe awards, has been accused of many things down the years, including sycophancy, rank amateurism and corruption. But now it faces a distinctly uncomfortable new charge: that it has blood on its hands.

One of the Association's 86 voting members, Nick Douglas, committed suicide in Ireland this month and, according to his editor at an Irish gossip magazine, his death was directly linked to the HPFA's decision to exclude him from its screenings and publicity junkets after a series of disciplinary infractions.

Barry O'Kane, who handled dozens of Mr Douglas's columns for the magazine Big Buzz, made his incendiary accusation in the pages of The New York Times, guaranteeing maximum exposure just days after the HPFA announced its eagerly-awaited Golden Globe nominations.

"They basically took a livelihood away from a guy who was out there trying to earn a living," Mr O'Kane said. "It led completely, directly to what ended up happening to Nick."

To call Mr O'Kane's assertions contentious would be a vast understatement. Many rank-and-file HPFA members have reacted with quiet fury at what they see as an entirely unsupported allegation, and accused the Irish editor of causing needless additional pain for Mr Douglas's family by disclosing his suicide.

First, they say, Mr Douglas's year-long suspension from the Association was entirely justified because he was caught selling a photograph of himself with the actor Tom Selleck at an HPFA event to a supermarket tabloid - an absolute no-no under the organisation's rules. He also tried to hustle for work as an actor by circulating photographs of himself with Tom Cruise - photos also taken under the HPFA's auspices - and was seen stealing crockery and unopened drinks from receptions at high-class Los Angeles hotels.

Secondly, Mr Douglas was reinstated with only slightly curtailed membership privileges last August. Thirdly, they added, he had only been a member of the Association for three years, but had managed to produce his Big Buzz column perfectly adequately for the previous eight or nine. So it was simply untrue that he was denied the opportunity to make a living as an entertainment journalist.

Still, the accusation has hit a nerve. For years, the HPFA was known as a disreputable club of freelancers and part-timers whose power and money derived solely from the television broadcast of the Golden Globes. Since the late 1990s, it has made an effort to make sure its members actually write for a living and established disciplinary rules. This year's ceremony takes place on 16 January.