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THE EMMYS

Security Becomes a Reluctant Co-Star

For every celebrity who didn't show, there was a metal detector or two.

November 05, 2001|PAUL BROWNFIELD and DANA CALVO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

They arrived, all right--some of them anyway. The stars who showed up got out of limos: The women wearing lovely dresses, the men in business suits, some with open collars and no ties. But given recent events, they had to pass through metal detectors and hold their arms aloft while security guards scanned their bodies with hand-held wands. Some celebrities were told to empty their pockets.

There were lots of cops on hand, lots of dark-suited men with American flag lapel pins, saying things into their wrists.

"I just begged them to strip-search me, and they wouldn't," joked Joan Rivers, emerging through the security checkpoint. It was around 2:30 p.m. and Rivers, who arrived with her daughter, Melissa, was getting ready to do the several hours of pre-show coverage she and her daughter do for the cable network E! Entertainment Television.

Rivers was asked about her sparkling dress. She wasn't sure how to spell the designer's name.

"How do you spell that?" Rivers asked her daughter.

"I couldn't begin to tell you," Melissa answered.

"R-e-m-e A-c-r-a," Rivers ventured.

And so it was, part of America's return to normal: The 53rd annual prime-time Emmys. If there was a heavy sense of anticlimax hanging over this year's awards, surely two postponements were to blame, and the absence of a full contingent of nominees, and the sense that unlike the World Series, this year's Emmys lacked an escapist draw.

But for one night, anyway, the Emmys took over the ABC Entertainment Center, turning the office complex into a compound for the TV industry's annual awards show.

Most of the stars came through the "only" entrance available, according to Emmy officials, the one off of Avenue of the Stars, in front of what is normally the Century Plaza movie theaters, among the businesses that were paid to be closed.

As the afternoon wore on, and the hour drew closer to 5 p.m., more and more security stationed themselves near the four metal detectors. The heightened security made for an odd scene, as celebrities became plebeians, their faces familiar but their bodies needing to be scanned, their possessions examined nonetheless, whether they were Andy Garcia or Kelsey Grammer.

Given that all attendees had to pass through security, Emmy organizers made sure the paparazzi and TV outlets didn't get shot after shot of nominees turning around so they could have their backsides wanded, and prying photographers were shooed away.

"This is the only entrance--the only official entrance," said publicist Pat Kingsley, suggesting that the more rarified attendees--Barbra Streisand and Martin Sheen, for instance--would probably get in a back way and thus avoid such indignities.

Kingsley--whose firm, PMK, represents such high-end stars as Tom Cruise--was waiting to accompany actress Sally Field down the red carpet. Standing behind a red rope, Kingsley was packed into a group of other, more junior publicists--pretty, 25ish, with cell phones pressed to their ears. It looked like an open casting call for "Sex and the City."

Meanwhile, traffic around the Shubert was such that some attendees simply got out of their cars and walked.

"I got shpilkes, you know what that means?" said CNN talk-show host Larry King, asked about the traffic. (Basically, it means "upset.") King went on to describe how he and his wife, Shawn Southwick, had been sitting in traffic until they decided to get out and walk. This was around Olympic Boulevard and Century Park East, King said, hurrying to his seat inside the Shubert.

If the traffic outside was bad, the 120 feet of red carpet functioned much like the 101 Freeway at rush hour. The mood wasn't as ebullient, but stars muddled through, sticking red-white-and-blue ribbons to their jackets and dutifully mouthing what they were expected to mouth about America's return to normality.

John Spencer, Emmy-nominated for his role on "The West Wing," was among those who'd made a supreme sacrifice to be here. A New Yorker, he was missing the Yankees in Game 7.

"I'm Tivo-ing," he said.

Despite the changed venue and uncertain times, both celebrities and the entertainment media quickly kicked into gear, well-schooled in the rituals of such events.

Janel Maloney, Spencer's "West Wing" co-star, chalked up Sunday's event as part of her promotional responsibilities to the show.

"I have a very simple work ethic," she said. "So I'm showing up for the work party."

On the red carpet, the syndicated celebrity newsmagazine "Entertainment Tonight" held first position, as is customary. At one point, hosts Mary Hart and Bob Goen taped a "just in case" intro for a celebrity death, even though there were no reports of any entertainer's dying on Sunday afternoon. "The mood here was subdued as news came that Hollywood lost one of its own," said Goen.

That lead-in was stored and sent to show editors who could, in a pinch, edit it into Monday night's newscast.

Goen and Hart also did a stand-up for the ailing Bob Hope, who hadn't evidently been hospitalized.

"We do a generic one--for anyone," said Charles Anderson, the show's director of photography. "And then we do one for Bob Hope--always. He's so great."

Inside the Shubert, executive producer Gary Smith gave attendees some last-minute words of encouragement.

"Don't be afraid to be excited," he told nominees. "Speak from your heart," he said of acceptance speeches. "But speak quickly from your heart."

Host Ellen DeGeneres drew hearty laughs when, in her opening comments, she thanked "all of the TV stars we love so much ... who are watching from home."

There were nominees who didn't come, and they spoke too. Their absence hampered the Emmys from being the communal experience CBS and the Academy of Arts & Sciences had billed in the weeks leading up to the event. A paean to celebrity and quality TV in the best of times, in these times Emmy was the TV show that could--and did.

*

Times staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this story.

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