Emmys party circuit heats up

The competition to attract TV's hottest is on

After the last Emmy is handed out on Sunday night, the real competition begins — namely, the party circuit battle to attract TV’s biggest movers and shakers.

This year’s competition is marked by a musical battle royale between reigning Emmy night party champ Entertainment Tonight/People and feisty newcomer TV Guide.

ET, which last year scored a coup by booking Prince, has just locked in Duran Duran. They’ll help inaugurate ET’s ritzy new downtown locale: Walt Disney Hall.

In the other corner, TV Guide execs were forced to scurry after original musical guest Amy Winehouse canceled all public appearances. In her place: Soul crooner John Legend.

While ET and TV Guide have the marquee performers, Emmygoers will have other options — some of which will no doubt pack some serious starpower in terms of guest lists.

HBO is taking over the Pacific Design Center for the fifth consecutive year, while 20th Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting are staying put at Spago. And, as always, the TV Academy’s official event will be the first stop for many with its Governors Ball.

There’s also a newcomer to the Emmy night mix: DirecTV is throwing an Emmy bash tied to its upcoming launch of 100 HD channels. Event will be adjacent to HBO’s bash, at the West Hollywood Municipal Park, and feature a dance floor/lounge located inside the sphere of a massive hot air balloon.

It’s all a far cry from 12 years ago, when the ET bash and the Governors Ball were the only big options. ET’s party started out modestly, with 300 guests at Pasadena’s Twin Palms restaurant.

“It just gets bigger and bigger every year,” said “ET” exec producer Linda Bell Blue, adding this year’s will be “the biggest, grandest and most talked-about yet.

“The Emmys are such an important night for us,” Blue said. “A star might make one or two movies a year, but someone like Katherine Heigl makes (22) episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ so we have them on the show all the time. TV stars are very important for our viewers.”

TV Guide editor-in-chief Ian Birch said his mag reaps major benefits from throwing such a gala party.

“It helps across the board, both internally and externally,” he said. “It’s a visible celebration of everything we’ve done, and it absolutely helps with publicists and network relationships.”

Plus, given that Emmy Night is the biggest event on the TV calendar, “We have to be there.”

“ET” has upped the ante over the years, both with big name musical guests and a gift bag that seems to grow bigger every year. Event’s popularity may have peaked last year, when Prince’s perf helped cause gridlock outside the Mondrian Hotel and dozens (if not more) partygoers had to be turned away.

To avoid a rerun, “ET” decided to move downtown to the more spacious Walt Disney Hall, where a two-story venue (including an outside patio) should allow plenty of elbow room. Guest list has also been pared down to around 750, compared to around 1000 last year.

“We’ll have three lanes of traffic, and the streets are wide,” Blue said. “It’s gonna be roomy.”

Other highlights of the event will include DJ Jason Bentley of KCRW, sax star Dave Koz and a Tree of Chocolate by Godiva.

TV Guide, meanwhile, is sticking with Hollywood, booking Les Deux for the night (and adding a 15,000 square foot tent to accommodate the expected 1500 or so guests). In addition to legend, Band From TV (featuring thesps such as Greg Grunberg and Hugh Laurie) will perform.

Mag’s fifth annual bash will feature a French burlesque theme, including topiaries and “Champagne girls” wearing Marie Antoinette-era costumes.

Perhaps not wanting to compete with ET on the gift bag front, TV Guide is eschewing a goodie giveaway, using the money to plant trees in Africa.

ET isn’t apologizing for its bag o’ plenty, but in a nod to the environment, its Cole Haan bag will be “eco-friendly,” according to reps for the party.

As for the other events, 20th/FBC’s Spago soiree, usually low-key, should be particularly pumped up thanks to the fact that Fox is airing this year’s Emmycast.

Event has more than doubled in size, with Canon Drive closed off to make room for a giant tent boasting a circular bar and dance floor. And in keeping with the Emmy’s green theme, a 20th rep said the bash will be produced with an eye on carbon neutrality (i.e., no fresh cut flowers, a recycled green carpet, organic food).

Even the going-away gift will be green: Guests will get an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb.

HBO’s party is expected to maintain its rep for subtle elegance. It’ll carry a Thai theme, with furniture and art from the Chiang Mai region of Thailand. Billy Butchkavitz is designing the space, which will include a 28-foot gilded statue.

There will be some commercial aspects, with a Laura Mercier cosmetics lounge and a gift bag of unknown heft.

DirecTV’s throwdown will be headlined by DJ AM and DJ Bolthouse, with catering by Along Came Mary. It’s being co-sponsored by Showtime, NBC U, Fox, Disney, A&E, Turner, Playboy, Intel, Philips…and the Weather Channel.

While “ET’s” Blue is proud of what she believes is her bash’s dominance of the night, Birch said he thinks there’s room for all the parties.

“It’s a healthy competition,” he said. “We’re all raising the bar and (in the case of TV Guide and ET-People), we’re saying that magazines are still vital at a time when people are saying they’re not. The more we have a friendly rivalry, the better it is for everyone.”

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