The New Hollywood: SWAT Teams, Heightened Security

While 18.5 million Americans and 236 countries worldwide tuned in last night to watch Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon win top honors at the 73rd annual Golden Globes, there was a very different scene on the ground in Beverly Hills as SWAT teams, police and security swarmed the hotel and after-parties. Both outside and inside the Beverly Hilton and in lavish parties held by such entertainment companies as Fox, Warner Bros., HBO and Netflix (to name a few), SWAT team members in bullet-proof vests, armed in full tactical gear, walked among the black-ties, evening gowns and jewels. Streets around the hotel were lined with officers holding assault rifles. Bomb-sniffing dogs were on hand at the hotel to examine cars.

Is this Hollywood’s new normal? Apparently so, at least for a while.

Last year, before terrorists struck America in San Bernardino and Philadelphia, security was so lax at the Golden Globes that Deadline was able to walk right into the area where crew were setting up the stage the day before with no badges and/or escort and take numerous pictures.

Deadline was told by the Beverly Hills Police Department this year that security would be beefed up, and it was working with federal law enforcement. The show of force Sunday was something many longtime attendees have never encountered.

Metal detectors were also in full force. One source confided that she saw an A-list actress having to take off her jewels to be scanned. At every point of entry even after they were admitted to the show, journalists had to have their badges scanned. Organizers banned pedestrian access to the hotel and guests were seen walking in their long dresses and suits through muddy water across from the building to get to the Fox party entrance where they were then met by a line of security guards.

At the Globes, Deadline talked to SWAT members outside the hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, who not only were in full tactical gear but also stood next to an armored vehicle as a show of force near one of the main thoroughfares to the hotel. SWAT members followed one party attendee who wore a backpack into the bathroom. Security also caused major backups for those trying to get to the after-parties, up to a 2 1/2-hour wait to get from the parking garage to the on-site parties via a shuttle. One Fox executive had trouble getting into his own party.

“It was nuts this year,” said one top publicist. “I was actually scared. And we know this is only the beginning. We are going to see this all the time now. The only thing that is going to change is that it will be more professional. This is going to be like Israel in how they check your bag and your car everywhere you go.”

In Israel, they have security checkpoints even at shopping malls, but America does not yet seem ready to adapt to an Israeli state. “The idea right now is to harden those soft targets,” said one of the top security experts in the country. “For instance, the soccer game where the President of France was, they couldn’t get in so they blew themselves up outside the stadium. At the concerts, they were able to get in.”

The expert told Deadline that “this is highest level that people in Hollywood are looking for security since 9/11. The difference is that after 9/11, the police were basically part of the plan of public safety in large public events. Since 2008, with the sliding economy, a lot of those same events in order to get the police … the costs are enormous. They are charging full overtime or double-time. Even though because of the way ISIS operates, including these lone wolfs, security should be heightened, certain shows will say I don’t have the budget for this. I think it’s a big mistake.”

Will this kind of security at events and awards shows hold? According to the expert, after 9/11, heightened security “was done as close to the book as possible and then every year after that, it softened.” The first Emmy’s after 9/11 was postponed several times and then moved venues (from the Shrine to the Schubert Theater) for security reasons. And at that show, security was so intense that comedian Dennis Miller quipped at the time that “short of giving a colonoscopy, they checked everything.”

“If you hit a place like a shopping mall, movie theater or a Hollywood premiere, they believe that they can shake the foundation of the free economy of the West … that’s what ISIS is all about,” says the security expert. “Part of a terrorist attack includes intelligence gathering. The Boston Marathon concept is the same idea as hitting a Hollywood movie premiere, but there are ways to secure the areas … you can confine every area and check entry and exit points.” But, he added, it is costly.

OK, so if money is the issue, wouldn’t it be money well spent? Yes, said the security expert, but he said, “We haven’t found the gruesome reason to do it yet in America. In my mind, it’s a mistake (not to do it). I wouldn’t want to be the first one to experience it on Hollywood Boulevard.”

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