At HBO’s Emmy night party, the more things change, the more they stay the same

Emilia Clarke HBO Emmy party
Emilia Clarke attends HBO’s awards reception after Sunday’s Emmys.
(Getty Images)

There were at least 100 of them, would-be partygoers languishing in line on Melrose Avenue. It was muggy, and the hairspray was no longer holding. But HBO had won more Emmys than any other network on Sunday night, with nine — and 34 overall, counting the earlier Creative Arts Emmys — so they waited.

It was still unclear what would await the guests inside the Pacific Design Center, where the cable outlet has held its signature post-telecast bash for years. With beloved moneymakers “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” all wrapped up, would the party serve as a lavish swan song? Or as one of the first big events following AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, might it have a subdued energy?

The decor was as glitzy as ever: silver-and-gold disco themed, with a multi-faced Emmy head floating over the bar. The buffets were gone in lieu of plated options — salmon, chicken or beef — and pizza bars. But it was still packed to the gills, with most of the evening’s big winners dropping in for at least 30 minutes. But unlike previous years, when stars were assigned tables by show, this time the most high-profile guests got private seating areas. Lest they be forced to interact with the sweaty masses, the casts of “Game of Thrones” and “Chernobyl” were cordoned off, lounging in booths where they didn’t have to field selfie requests.


The 2019 Creative Arts Emmys have been awarded, and winners are notated on our Emmy nominations list.

Sept. 16, 2019

D.B. Weiss and the team from "Game of Thrones" accepts the award for outstanding drama series at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards.
(Invision for the Television Academy)

Yet arguably the most famous celebrity at the party, Drake, was somehow the most accessible. The rapper, who also serves as a producer on “Euphoria,” stood at the center of the room near show stars Alexa Demie and Sydney Sweeney for an hour and a half. Sure, he was encircled by at least four low-key security dudes, dressed in black sweatshirts. But they didn’t stop onlookers from approaching their client, including a trio of ladies who spotted the musician, rapidly applied lip gloss and mouthed: “Let’s go.”

Drake departed by 10:30 p.m., just before “Euphoria’s” star Zendaya arrived. She had changed out of her Poison Ivy-inspired show look and into a daintier floral gown with a knotted train. She found a seat next to Miss J. Alexander and tracked down some pizza. Then she took out her phone and began scrolling through Instagram.

The end of “Game of Thrones,” the rise of Netflix and the AT&T takeover have many people worried about HBO’s future. Casey Bloys isn’t one of them.

Aug. 9, 2019

"Euphoria" cast members, from left: Maude Apatow, Algee Smith, Sydney Sweeney and Zendaya.
(Getty Images)

The “Game of Thrones” crew was in a more celebratory mood, picking up a drama series win for the show’s final season. Gwendoline Christie — she and “Succession” star Nicholas Braun were the easiest to spot in the crowd, given their height — was now wearing a pantsuit and sneakers and seemed to be hugging someone new every few seconds. Sophie Turner mingled with friends by the bar sans her husband, Joe Jonas, who was out on tour. And Emilia Clarke lasted half an hour longer than Drake, a bodyguard leading her toward the exit around 11 p.m.

By then, most of the “Saturday Night Live” posse had already left — Aidy Bryant, Beck Bennett, Kate McKinnon — save for producer Lindsay Shookus. She was not clutching the hand of rumored beau Jon Hamm, but rather her new Emmy as she chatted with “Succession” star Jeremy Strong.


Another would-be couple nowhere to be found? Margaret Qualley and Pete Davidson. The “Fosse/Verdon” actress arrived instead with another man.

With a record-breaking number of nominations, what could stop “Game of Thrones” from a final-season Emmys sweep? Maybe that final season.

Sept. 22, 2019

Margaret Qualley at the HBO party
(Michael Tran / FilmMagic)

Just as the party looked to be running out of steam, the lights dimmed and the DJ was joined by a pair of drummers. Dancers dressed in head-to-toe gold sequins hopped onto platforms, moving their arms in trippy waves to Gloria Estefan.

“It’s like a strip-tease for C-3PO,” said a female onlooker, both mystified and transfixed.

At the exit, there was no gift bag — only free bottles of Voss water. The ladies who had earlier stuffed their purses with tubes of lip gloss at the Lorac touch-up station felt good about their life choices.