Backstage at the Shrine Auditorium was where all the action was last night at the 2007 Emmy Awards.
It certainly wasn’t out front, where despite maybe the best-looking stage set ever, the event itself lacked something hard to pin down: glamour, buzz, glitz.
(But kudos to producer Ken Ehrlich and his theater in the round. At least in person, the set was a smash.)
At least when "The Sopranos" won Best Drama, and the entire cast took the stage, it was fun to see them pour into the backstage area and swallow Al and Tipper Gore whole.
The Gores were at the Emmys to pick up an award for their interactive TV network with partner Joel Hyatt.
But soon they were lost in a sea of Sopranos, starting with Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), Janice (Aida Turturro), Johnny Sack (Vince Curatola) and Silvio Dante (Steve van Zandt). Indeed, HBO brought out everybody who’d ever been on "The Sopranos," it seemed, for this last go round.
“Thirty five cast members are coming through that door in a second,” warned one of the publicists.
But two cast members were missing: James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, aka Tony and Carmela.
Each notoriously shy, they’d somehow bolted out another exit right after "The Sopranos" won Best Drama and earned a wild cheering standing ovation inside the Shrine. They missed the Gores entirely after so many seasons of gore, pun intended.
They weren’t the only ones who missed some excitement. Minutes before Best Comedy was announced, “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin — who’d inexplicably lost Best Actor to Ricky Gervais for his short-lived HBO comedy “Extras” — ducked past me to get a cigarette outside the theater’s back door.
Of course, that’s when “30 Rock” won its award for Best Comedy. The whole cast jumped on stage except for Alec. His brother Billy Baldwin, now starring in ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” told me: “We ran out to tell Alec his show won, and he didn’t believe us. He missed it!”
But Lorne Michaels didn’t miss it. The "Saturday Night Live" executive producer and creator clutched his Emmy for “30 Rock” tightly.
He agreed it was sweet vindication, considering how everything had come to pass. “30 Rock” was the comedic answer to a show Michaels didn’t want on the air at NBC, Aaron Sorkin’s drama about SNL, “Studio 60.”
That show, of course, is gone now, a hugely expensive mistake. Michaels, who’d been with NBC since 1975, had triumphed. Now he’d brought NBC its first Best Comedy Emmy award in many seasons.
And who was missing from the scene? Oddly enough, Jeff Zucker, NBC’s chief, who’d backed Sorkin’s show until it fell right off a cliff.
(Michaels did tell me that he’s satisfied with the current cast of “Saturday Night Live” and has made no changes for the Sept. 29 season premiere. “I might add a couple of people mid-season. We’ll see,” he said.)
At the Governor's Ball, the talk was that Zucker was absent from the Emmy proceedings while his newish head of programming, Ben Silverman, was everywhere: he’d hosted a much-talked-about party on Friday night, and then a network party on Saturday night at Spago in a silver suit and then turned up Sunday night in his tux to toast the network’s new winners.
One of the winners was Jaime Pressly, the comely blonde who won Best Actress in a comedy for “My Name Is Earl.” By the time I found her, Pressly was hoarse and ready to leave the Ball since she had to be on set the next morning at 6:30.
Her win was sweet vindication, too. A couple of years before she got the part on “Earl,” she’d been unfortunately profiled in the New Yorker as a kind of talentless bimbo who was trying to make it in Hollywood. The article, she told me, still stings, but winning the Emmy was the best way to erase all that.
“That writer had an agenda,” she said of the New Yorker piece. “I never think about it.”
As for "The Sopranos," all night among the HBO crowd there was fear that the show would lose to a Los Angeles-based, standard broadcast show like “24” or “House.”
The show had only won Best Drama once before, in 2004. Last night, things didn’t look so good when its actors — Bracco, Turturro, Falco and then Gandolfini — each lost to actors from network shows.
“When they opened the envelope for Best Actor and said James, we all started to get up and go ooooh,” Bracco told me. “Then it turned out to be James Spader. We were like, what?”
Indeed, one acerbic Emmy winner backstage said to me after Spader’s umpteenth win for his odd performance on “Boston Legal”: “That means my award suddenly doesn’t mean so much if that’s what’s happening. What’s that all about?”
Well, that’s about the TV biz in Hollywood, which doesn’t like it when outsiders come loping in.
One example: even though Ricky Gervais won Best Actor last night, the official Emmy site listed Steve Carell of “The Office” as the winner. Carell went on stage as a joke because Gervais was absent. But in Emmy land, maybe that was good enough.
Tony Bennett, 81 years young, won 7 Emmy Awards last night for his musical special on NBC. They weren’t Grammy Awards, but Emmys.
Director Rob Marshall won, the show won, Tony won, the choreographer won. But when the show’s executive producer, Danny Bennett, Tony’s manager and son went over the to table of statues to pick them up, a stupid girl chided him: “Tony Bennett will have to get these himself.”
You can’t win for losing in this town.
But Danny Bennett, who’s helped revive his father’s career into a smash hit, can take a lot of consolation. Last year, Sony Music forgot to do the paperwork entering Tony’s “Duets” CD in the Best Album category at the Grammys. Whoops. But now he’s got Emmys galore. All he needs is an Oscar.
Last night, Bennett performed live twice, by the way. He sang with Christina Aguilera on the Emmy broadcast — it was boffo — and then did a four-song set with his band at the Governor's Ball. He never sounded better. Just amazing.
At People magazine’s swanky party at the Disney Music Hall, though, he was back to being humble Tony Bennett.
While Duran Duran did a set of their '80s rock hits on the main floor, Bennett — with his wife Susan — sat on the outside terrace and ate a plate of food from the buffet with little fanfare.
How did he feel after getting so many awards and knocking everyone out? “Pretty good,” he replied huskily. That’s an understatement.
Meanwhile, Kanye West rolled into HBO’s magnificent, tented, Indian-themed gala at the Pacific Design Center after performing at TV Guide’s bash at Les Deux Café.
It’s always disarming to see Kanye — he’s shorter than you think, and balding, but he’s got an outsized gang with him at all times.
At TV Guide, his fans included his pal John Legend, whom he joined on stage, as well as the Hollywood garage rock band consisting of Greg Grunberg, Hugh Laurie, Bob Guiney and "Desperate Housewife" castmate James Denton. Teri Hatcher joined them on stage to belt out a couple of hits as well.
Strange sights from the Emmys Sunday night, just in case you were wondering: T. R. Knight, the actor from "Grey’s Anatomy," is gay in real life, no? Isn’t that how Isaiah Washington lost his job, because he referred to Knight derogatorily on set?
Anyway, Knight spent the entire night squiring around a really hot babe. They held hands everywhere they went, and he kept his hand on the small of her back. It was very odd. Maybe he was pretending to be gay, we wondered, the way the dentist on "Seinfeld" turned Jewish for the jokes? Hollywood is one weird place. …
And meanwhile, one Tinseltown type always suspected of being gay brought his boyfriend and a posse of like-minded pals, and didn’t seem to get it that many witnesses were on hand. The boyfriend looked a smaller version of Oscar Wilde. Wild! ...
My favorite people from the weekend were a whole gang from "Grey’s Anatomy," who were always together and having a ball: Eric Dane with wife Rebecca Gayheart, James Pickens Jr. and his beautiful wife Gina and Justin Chambers with his elegant spouse, Keisha. The latter have five children including a pair of twins! ...
And quick, go to www.charityfolks.com to bid on teapots made by celebs for BAFTA/LA, the Hollywood division of the British Academy Awards. They’re very cool. BAFTA/LA held a very posh afternoon tea party on Saturday at the Wattles Mansion in Hollywood for its members, including Joely Richardson of "Nip/Tuck" and Saffron Burrows of "Boston Legal."
Joely and I commiserated about missing the weekend wedding in Mexico of our pals Ioann Gruffudd (of "Fantastic Four" fame) and Alice Evans. Congrats! Joely is very excited about her mom, Vanessa Redgrave, in an upcoming film, “Atonement.”
“I mean, she steals the movie!” Joely cried. “I know she’s my mum, but come on!”