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A Night of Firsts... and Many Happy Returns : ACTING VETS FINALLY GET THEIR EMMYS

September 21, 1987|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

None of the partners of the year-old law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney & Kuzak left the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Sunday with Emmy Awards in their briefcases, but at least 10 of the coveted TV awards did go for the first time to some veteran actors who were passed over in previous years.

Backstage at the 39th Emmy Awards show, it was a night for first-time winners, from such perennial stars as Gena Rowlands and Dabney Coleman to not-so-venerable Bruce Willis to newcomer Jackee Harry.

Willis, a veteran of "Moonlighting" (which could have won a statuette for Nominated Dramatic Series That Got The Fewest Emmy Awards last year), seemed almost as nonchalant as the irreverent private detective he portrays when he came backstage at the ceremonies following his award for best dramatic actor.

Although offering the obligatory "I was thrilled, I didn't expect to win," Willis, sporting one stylish earring, added: "My career has gone pretty well without winning this (award), it's just a personal honor for me." The secret to his acting success, he said, is "Don't act."

Willis said he believes "Moonlighting," which is one of the most expensively produced shows on TV, is a success precisely because it costs so much. "You see it all on the screen," he said.

"Cagney & Lacey" star Sharon Gless, who wrested the best actress award away from her on-screen partner, Tyne Daly, last year, did so again this year, as well as against competition from two new "L.A. Law" stars, Susan Dey and Jill Eikenberry.

"There's something about the second time that reinforces my faith in myself," said a radiant Gless backstage, adding that the Emmy Award brings her and Daly--who has won three-- together each year rather than forcing them apart. She said that her character, Chris Cagney, will continue to struggle against her alcoholism in 1987-88, which she believes will probably be the series' last season. But "Cagney is a fighter, and she's going to beat this," she added.

Gless noted that, although most people connected with the show expect this to be the last season, the show's producer, Orion, will not allow a final episode to be filmed because a definitive ending could hurt the series if it is sold into syndication.

Gless was less optimistic about breaking her own personal cigarette habit. "That's a personal question," she replied im mock annoyance when asked whether she intended to give up the habit, adding: "Certainly not."

In the supporting dramatic actress category, Bonnie Bartlett of "St. Elsewhere" was taking her second award as well--even though she said backstage that she had predicted her counterpart nominated from "L.A. Law," Susan Ruttan, would win.

She added her character, wife of the irascible Dr. Mark Craig (played by her real-life husband William Daniels) would get a lot wilder in the fall. "We are having severe marital problems, I have split with my husband, and I'm cavorting with other people!" she bubbled happily.

Bartlett added that she's unconcerned about the show's future."I think everybody is not sure (if this is the show's last season), but everybody has been not sure every year. This is no different," she said.

"L.A. Law" co-creators Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher pledged to continue the show's commitment to creating provocative television drama. The two joked about Fisher's on-camera comments about the importance of revealing "the female side" of the show and its characters. "Terry makes me wear dresses to story meetings," deadpanned Bochco.

The best actor in a comedy was also a previous winner, Michael J. Fox of "Family Ties." He said he was fully satisfied by the outcome of this year's Emmys when Gary David Goldberg and Alan Uger (whom Fox described as "those two bearded Teddy bears") won one of the evening's earliest awards for comedy series' writing for the poignant " 'A,' My Name Is Alex," special episode of "Family Ties."

Said Fox of his own award: "I just don't want to wake up," adding that ratings are his last concern as a television actor. "If we as artists feel like we've done a good job, the ratings are irrelevant."

The best supporting actor in a comedy series, John Larroquette from "Night Court," who won the award for best supporting actor last year, said that he would be satisfied to play the amoral Dan Fielding for the run of the show with no aspirations to a so-called starring role because the show focuses on a different character each week. "I don't really consider Fielding a supporting character," he said.

And Larroquette broke with a backstage tradition of discussing how his character would change in the upcoming season by saying that his character would retain his trademark patina of sleaze. "The raison d'etre of the show is what the audience likes to see," he said.

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