The annual awards season in Hollywood is usually a lucrative time for many people who work behind the scenes.
Event planners have large-scale glamorous receptions to organize, waiters in Beverly Hills serve hundreds of celebrities at various parties, and many publicists parade their talents on the red carpet.
But with the epidemic changing dramatically at award ceremonies – which are now all virtual – and parties canceled, many jobs have been canceled and people are unemployed.
Before the Grammy remotely contract on March 14, as well as the Oscars next month, we’re talking to Tinseltown workers who have had to find other ways to make money.
David Pinene, former banquet waiter
Mr. Benin, 50, has worked at the Beverly Hilton since 2001, and has been waiting for everyone from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, to Kate Winslet and Judi Dench.
The hotel is usually home to the annual Golden Globe Awards and also hosts several other Hollywood events.
“I first came to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career,” he says. “I was hired by a referral and I intended to be my side assignment until my acting career took off.”
While Mr. Benin’s acting career has never blossomed, he gave birth to a child in 2006 and the career awards have become a full-time career. “I got a first row seat for the success that acting could have but never really tasted it myself.”
As a single father, he said he felt “confused and panicked” at the start of the epidemic, completely unsure of his future. “My main concern was to support my daughter. Here we are, a year later and … I am still laid off, and so are all of my co-workers at the event.”
Benin says he was grateful for the hotel’s support. “The employer did go up, campaigning to transport food to his laid-off workers and distributing generous gift cards.”
However, he says the past year is still “very difficult”.
“The federal unemployment money that I carry is only half of what I earned on the job. Paying the rent, keeping up with my bills and providing food for my family was difficult.
“I was months overdue on paying rent and other bills. I went from a lucrative, high-octane Hollywood career full of joy and joy, to collecting unemployment money and food donations for survival. It was so hard to swallow it up as a man, so hard for one’s self-esteem.”
With the big award ceremonies not taking place in person for quite some time, Benin is seriously considering a career changeover.
“Working as a waiter can be an uncommon industry of getting old. I have considered becoming a librarian to counter the stimulus overload that I have suffered on the job for 20 years of awards.”
Nevertheless, Benin remains cautiously optimistic about his future. “After a year of isolation and reflection, I’m ready to get back to doing something!”
Michelle Pesci, Hollywood DJ
Before the pandemic, Ms. Pesce had played records at post-award ceremonies.
Last year, she was spending more time focusing on talent agency Nona Entertainment, which represents over 40 DJs.
“Our industry has been devastated, and our revenues are 80% less than they used to be,” says Bessy.
“Many DJs have been switching to virtual groups, or bringing in money in non-music ways. People have to pay their bills and get advice about streaming groups is nice, but it only works if you have 1000- plus subscribers.”
She says things are getting better now, with personal DJ sets on the horizon once again. “I saw a final change three weeks ago. We’ve had more new inquiries than any of the previous 52 weeks.
“People are embracing the light at the end of the tunnel. They are definitely ready for a good party.”
Fernando Darin, former president
Fernando Darren had been the head chef at upscale Patina in Los Angeles – a longtime caterer to Emmy Awards dinner parties – for a few months before the pandemic caused it to close.
“I was so excited that I was putting on something really special,” he says. “After two months, we got news of the restaurant being permanently closed and it was difficult to accept that.”
No longer a chef, Mr. Darren decided to return to his roots – creating music.
When the quarantine started, he got very close to a friend who is producing movie music. “I was interested in the work he was doing.
“Suddenly I was training with him and learned a bunch of cool tricks – producing and arranging movie scores.”
Music has always been a present in his life – he got his first guitar when he was seven years old – but this is the first time he’s trying to make a living from it.
“This is really a new area of work for me,” he says. “But like anything else I’ve done in my life, I work with low expectations and a lot of dedication. I’ve renovated my home studio and this is where I spend most of my days now.”
Darren often asked himself if he would ever return to setting up award dinners on a grand scale, should Hollywood return to normal.
“I’ve asked that question a million times in the last year. Of course, I miss being the captain in the kitchen on a Saturday night or the adrenaline rush to serve 4,000 people at the Emmys.
“That was a big part of my life and I will never forget it, it’s like that girlfriend you had when you were a teenager.”
Charles Jolly, mixed
The famous cocktail maker has created and served signature drinks at the Oscars and Emmy Awards for the past five years.
He says his heart is broken for hospitality employees who continue to change their lives, rely on tips and often without health insurance.
“I am really grateful to be here [had] Few projects are underway at that time [the pandemic hit] So the carpet has not been pulled completely out from under me. “
Over the past year, Jolie has had time to work for Crafthouse Cocktails, a bottled drink company he co-founded more than eight years ago.
“We had to make an immediate shift in focus, as most of our partners were affected,” he says. “No more concerts, sporting events or flights, which meant we had to find other ways to get cocktails in people’s hands.
“One of the side effects of the epidemic is that people have ramped up cocktails at home. We have been able to direct our efforts to retail partners, online stores and liquor stores.”
Another major project Mr. Jolie has been involved in is designing his own line of barware and glassware.
He was also able to offer cocktail lessons, saying, “Besides people who eat bread and other hobbies during quarantine, he also learned a lot to make cocktails.”
Melanie Walton, Propaganda
With no celebrities walking on the red carpet that no longer exists, Walton is shocked to find herself unemployed.
“I’ve worked major red carpet shows for over 15 years. The job security I thought I might be has disappeared.
“I thought the job award offers were necessary and influential. It was my way to contribute to the beauty and art industries, while looking great while doing so. I initially felt embarrassed and collapsed when the epidemic shattered my flow.”
In the past year, Walton has begun to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on her life choices and priorities and how much value she places on things that really don’t matter. “I did a lot of prayer and reading, and talked a lot with God.”
With her BA and MA in communication, a cosmetic license and a real estate broker, she says she’s always ready to try something new – and started law school last August.
“However, I soon realized that I was more interested in the idea of being a lawyer than the law itself.” So she returned to another profession she had before – hairdressing.
Walton also wants to return to her musical roots, and she has created a production company called MW Entertainment. “It’s an exciting time, I have so many ideas!” Says.