HOLLYWOOD — Maybe letting HBO compete for Emmys brought the cabler into the kudo big leagues, but it’s HBO that elevated the TV Acad’s social life with its Oscar night-style after-parties.
As it did last year, HBO took over the Beverly Hills Spago, blocked off Canon Drive with a 240-foot tent draped in olive panne velvet, covered the street in purple carpet, hung Murano crystals from the chandeliers and offered 11 Wolfgang Puck-prepared buffets to the 1,500 guests.
HBO topper Jeff Bewkes was under the tent at “The Sopranos” table where he said what made him proud was “five years ago we were lucky to be invited to the Emmys and now we have such a range of recognition for our programs.”
Standing nearby was Chris Rock who expressed reservations about the whole awards show concept. “I’m not sure what’s in it for the home viewer,” said the comedian. “The recipients –yes; the viewers — no.”
Inside at a booth near the kitchen, HBO Films topper Colin Callender commented upon Geena Davis’ show-stopping dress, which “redefined the meaning of see-through. Believe me, they weren’t standing to see Jack Lemmon.”
Down the street, Par and “ET” had a fiesta on the Barney’s store second floor that was so heavy with praisers it could have been a black-tie Publicists Guild dinner. The party’s star was the “Frasier” cast, which was velvet-roped off in the women’s designer apparel section.
As for Frasier himself, Kelsey Grammer said the party was “like going to hell.” However, he seemed to be having a pretty good time for a guy in perdition. But maybe holding an Emmy would have made the hors d’oeuvres-with-Satan thing a bit more palatable.
“ET’s” Leonard Maltin said the evening’s high point came when he met almost-a-millionaire’s-wife Darva Conger. And though for some this might reinforce Grammer’s comments regarding hell, Maltin was primarily impressed by Susan Harrison (of “Sweet Smell of Success” fame) being Conger’s mother.
As for Conger, she had her own critique of the Emmys show. “Two key categories were left out tonight,” she said. ” ‘Worst game show’ and ‘The most viewed person on TV, who is not actually on TV.’ ”
There were enough people — both on and off TV — at the party for Sharon Lawrence to observe that, “Barney’s has never seen this much traffic. So many people here have traveled downstairs to the bathrooms, we managed to break one of the elevators.”
The flow to these Westside parties began after guests had made a first stop at the TV Academy’s Governors Ball where the Shrine’s Exposition Hall had been transformed by Sequoia Productions in blue, violet and silver hues and 2,700 guests, including TV Academy chairwoman Meryl Marshall; and its prexy Jim Chabin, were entertained by a swing band.
One TV exec described the ball as “the place to be if you wanted to see all the people with the hardware in one place. Everyone’s walking around with an Emmy.”
Fox TV had Morton’s to itself where the front parking lot was tented in a stunning aquamarine to house the 600 guests who included Calista Flockhart, Jenna Elfman, Frankie Muniz, Lara Flynn Boyle, Lucy Liu, Matt Groening, Nicholas Brendan and Thomas Gibson.
Fox TV co-topper Gary Newman said the party was a chance for his stars “to get out and meet one another and it always turns into a mutual admiration society. At heart, they’re all just fans.”
Showtime commandeered Pinot Hollywood for its after-party and it was there that the topper Matthew C. Blank said that the “West Wing” wins “proves that the American public prefers a make-believe president to the real thing.”
Among those on hand were Showtime’s Jerry Offsay, MGM TV’s Hank Cohen, Mimi Rogers, Tony Bill and Helen Bartlett, Tyne Daly and nominee Elizabeth Franz.
The “West Wing” crowd gathered at the Four Seasons where at one point creator Aaron Sorkin stepped outside and wasn’t allowed to return by the security guards.
“He’s the reason you’re having this party,” said an intervening bystander who was waiting with the overflow crowd.
So the guards relented and let in Sorkin, but, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, the bystander remained outside.
(Jill Feiwell and Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)