Overheard at the Governors Ball

Times Staff Writer

“We all have our demons. We all have our shadows. And we dance between both of them.”

-- Jeremy Piven, backstage after his victory

When the Emmys show runs over, the audience suffers and network execs grit their teeth, but it is the catering staff that has it the worst. At 8 p.m. Sunday, the Governors Ball floor was filled with what looked like a zombie army, several standing motionless by each table across the vast floor.

Thomas Haden Church appeared Emmy in hand. “Isn’t it 8:05 yet?” he asked. With his date he cooled his heels until the masses arrived. Alec Baldwin dashed by, stopping for a brief congrats, but it was an odd moment for Church, one of the trophy bearers: The night of destiny suddenly came to a standstill as he paced and met the blank gazes of the staff, waiting for the empty room to fill with celebrators.


Around 10 after 8, rapturous -- and exhausted -- applause poured through from the auditorium next door and thousands began to flood in. Seated at the front of the room, Robert Duvall was the first to his table and finished the opening course before half the guests were seated. Halfway across the room, Jerry Bruckheimer and his wife sat alone at one end of “The Amazing Race’s” table.

The man of the hour

You may talk about James Gandolfini, Kiefer Sutherland or Neil Patrick Harris, but on the floor of the Governors Ball one man walked like a titan above pygmies; his thinning hair pulled into a ponytail and trademark Durante schnoz stopped traffic before him. Porn star Ron Jeremy graced the academy with his presence, and all paid homage.

“I have a right to be here,” he explained. “The season of ‘The Surreal Life’ I was on with Tammy Faye was the highest-rated Sunday night show in the history of the WB. The movie I made, ‘Boondock Saints,’ is the all-time No. 1 straight-to-video rental in Blockbuster history.” And he is a bestselling author and has a copy of the New York Times bestseller list to prove it.


I asked how this event compares to a similar gala in the adult film world. “Well, the girls in porn also wear very expensive gowns,” he said. “But you’d see a lot more cleavage and a lot less underwear.”

As we talked, Tom Selleck spotted Jeremy and broke into a huge grin. “You are the greatest,” Selleck leaned in and told him. “You are too,” the porn maestro nobly answered. Jeremy was asked to pose for a photograph with another set of admirers, something that happened to him throughout the night.

He dropped by the “Heroes” table to visit Ali Larter, his costar from the film “National Lampoon’s Homo Erectus.” Larter gave him a warm hug but appeared nervous when she was introduced to me and noticed the pen and note pad in my hand. Nonetheless, she introduced Jeremy to others at the table, all of whom seemed thrilled to meet him, except Hayden Panettiere, 18, who didn’t seem to recognize him. Searching for two others he had worked with, Charlie Sheen and Gandolfini, Jeremy recited the list of legitimate film and TV projects he had worked on recently -- a prodigious list that any aspiring actor would kill for. Nonetheless, he told me, as another fan asked for a picture, he remains unrepresented by a major agency or management company. “I’ve taken meetings with them all, but in the end, I’m too controversial. I might offend someone,” he said with a sigh. “I mean, I’ve got movies, TV shows. I’m a bestselling author.”

As Tony Bennett began to sing in the center of the room, Jeremy headed to greet friend Conan O’Brien, but more fans stopped him en route.


We are what they feed us

Despite stabs at daring, Hollywood award banquet food does not veer far from the award banquet food at any Rotary Club reception in Lincoln, Neb. Dazzling though the flashbulbs on the red carpet may be, when one sits down at the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild awards, one expects roast chicken and grilled vegetables. The Emmys, however, knocked tradition asunder like an old plaything. The food by Joachim Splichal and Patina Catering looked downright futuristic against the backdrop of tuxes. The menu included a first-course tower of mango and Dungeness crab with avocado, tomato, lotus root and a ginger soy reduction. The entree was filet mignon and braised short ribs but served with two clumps of mashed food that proved to be potatoes fondant and marrow flan.

When informed that he had just finished a marrow flan, “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan did a pitch-perfect spit take and shouted, “Bone marrow! Someone should’ve warned us that we were eating bones!”

Asked how he enjoyed the rest of the meal, Morgan said, “It’s not a dirty frank on the streets of Brooklyn, but I’ll eat it.”


Elsewhere, consulting producer Peter Blake, whose show “House” was passed over in the drama category, said mournfully, “The marrow flan was perfectly paired with the bitter taste of defeat already in my mouth.”

The ‘in’ crowd

The hottest and happiest table in the house seemed to be the “30 Rock” table, where many seemed dazed from their surprise win for outstanding comedy. Writer Daisy Gardner, taking home her first Emmy, said, “I got so excited I dropped a drink in my crotch and now I have to skip the rest of the parties.”

As the ball began to wane, the “30 Rock” table was one of the last still going strong. Series costar Judah Friedlander, however, put the victory in perspective. “I’m still waiting to meet [host Ryan] Seacrest,” he said. “Is he ever going to come say hi?”