EMMY attendees left their velvet seats at the stroke of 8 Sunday night and began streaming into the Governors Ball in the Shrine Auditorium, where a phalanx of Patina waiters stood at attention near tables bearing wine bottles ready to pour.
Debra Messing and Denis Leary were among those who gathered near one of several bars where cocktails were poured through ice sculptures shaped like liquor bottles. The Shrine Expo Hall had been transformed into a 1930s ocean liner with tall sprays of calla lilies and a mirrored gilded stage where a lounge singer serenaded couples on the dance floor.
Fifteen minutes into the party, William Shatner sat enjoying his shrimp cocktail with his Emmy statuette just to the left of his plate. Beef Wellington, peach melba and the Australian troupe the Ten Tenors were still to come.
Elsewhere, Teri Hatcher spoke animatedly into her cellphone across the table from Andrea Bowen, her TV daughter, then received kisses of consolation from well-wishers. Marcia Cross struggled to keep the train of her emerald gown from underfoot amid the packed aisles.
James Spader sat near "Malcolm in the Middle's" Jane Kaczmarek and an expensive bottle of champagne as he posed for pictures with his statuette. He said he'd go on to the Fox party but wouldn't stay long because he had a morning call at the set of "Boston Legal." "I'm going to go home and learn lines."
After Tony Shalhoub was mobbed by adorers, he said, "I feel fantastic. Being in our fourth season [of "Monk"] ... it wasn't just a flash in the pan. We have more and more people coming to the show."
To the right of the stage, six Emmys weighed down the table of "Amazing Race" producer Richard Hall. "We own the category," said Hall. Each of its 31 team members garnered a trophy. "We probably have some hidden under the table," he said.
APPLAUSE FOR NEWSMEN: In a rare display of public appreciation, retired anchormen Tom Brokaw of NBC and Dan Rather of CBS received the longest standing ovation of the night, teaming to pay tribute to ABC anchor Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer last month. "It still comes as something of a shock," Rather said, "to say that word 'we' in the absence brought by Peter's passing."