About Last Night…

The first time I was up for a Daytime Emmy, I did something I probably won't ever do again: I went to the ceremony.

I didn't win but that wasn't the reason I skipped the gala the next few times I was nominated. I just found that one time I attended to be an ordeal of boredom and hassle…and that was before you had to wear a tuxedo to one of these things. (Note to Self: You still don't. I did last night because they said it was the dress code but an awful lot of folks, including I'd say a majority of presenters and winners, didn't. And the men who opted for a classy dark suit looked better and more natural than those of us in "Black Tie." I have one photo in which I look like a Head Waiter in a really, really crummy restaurant angling for a tip.)

I have mixed feelings on the whole concept of awards like these. Having served on a committee at the Academy that looked into the voting process for possible improvement — and then wasn't allowed to make any meaningful suggestions — I am thoroughly disabused of any notion that the statuettes or even the nominations go to the Best and the Brightest. (Last night though, a few did go to The Bold and the Beautiful and even to The Young and the Restless.) I also think most winners blow the event and honor way out of proportion and that some are even harmed, personally and/or professionally by a win. There are recipients I know who I think were because they then lost perspective on who they were or how they fit into their line of work.

On the other hand, an award like an Emmy sure makes some people happy. It's hard to knock something that creates as much joy as some of the "wins" did last night…and every so often, the name in the envelope is so right and so appropriate that you're grateful for the institution and the ceremony and all the trappings. I wouldn't have gone if I'd been up for one myself but no way was I going to turn down the opportunity to escort June Foray, who at age 94 (!!!) received her first nomination.

As long as I've known June, which is since 1970 or thereabouts, I've heard her occasionally wonder aloud why she had been so totally ignored by the Academy. It wasn't some childish "I deserve an Emmy" whine. She was just puzzled. I guess that when you've received every other conceivable honor in your profession, it just felt like something was missing.

The truth is that…well, first of all, for a long time (like when they were doing the original Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons with her playing Squirrel and a hundred other roles), there simply was no Emmy for what she was doing. No category. And then when there finally was, I don't think a lot of her employers thought to submit her for consideration. When we did the old Garfield & Friends show in the eighties and early nineties, June was a frequent guest and I didn't think to tell anyone, "Make sure we submit June Foray." I don't know if anyone did or not…or if it would have mattered. We did submit, I'm sure, Lorenzo Music and other regulars but the voice cast received zero nominations.

And why didn't more producers submit her? Well, some of them opt to omit the guest stars, lest those folks take away votes from the regulars. Some are just thoughtless, as we may have been. In some cases, I think she was like the prettiest girl in school who doesn't get asked to the prom because everyone assumes she already has too many offers. Though it was announced last night that it was June's first-ever nomination, as she was sitting at the after-party with her trophy, people still came by and asked her, "So how many of those do you have now?" One of the other presenters idled by and said, "Can you find room on your mantle for that with all the others you must have?"

I got a late start driving out to pick June up for the evening. We're recording more episodes of The Garfield Show (the follow-up to Garfield & Friends) today and tomorrow. In fact, June is in tomorrow, again playing Mrs. Cauldron, the character she won the Emmy for playing in earlier episodes. The most amazing thing to me about June is not that she is 94. A lot of people live to be 94. But how many of them can still do essentially the same job they were doing at 24? I'd planned to leave to pick her up by 2 PM but at 2 PM, I was still polishing scripts and configuring cast lists. At 2:15, I uploaded the scripts for both days to the printer and began hurriedly donning my gay apparel. Carolyn, who was too busy working on the next volume of Pogo reprints, had decided she'd reluctantly have to skip the evening but on an impulse, she came along with me to pick up June and admire how stunning she looked in her formal-type gown.

We got to June's at 3:30 (she lives some distance) and to the hotel at 4:30. I hadn't eaten all day…and wouldn't until the after-party after 9 PM but for the fact that Carolyn went off and found a hamburger for me. My big personal achievement of the day was eating it without getting ketchup on my tux. June and I went through the presenters' briefing and rehearsal and then Carolyn took a cab back to her place to work on the book.

As you may be aware if you read this blog, my life abounds in coincidences. One thing I needed to do before the ceremony was to make sure the announcer — the person they have introducing those who come out to present — knew how to pronounce my last name. The advance script I received had it written out phonetically and wrong. Turned out I didn't have to bother. The announcer, I discovered, was Candi Milo who knows me very well. In fact, I'll be directing her at the Garfield Show recording in less than an hour from now. (And the presenter just before June and me turned out to be my old pal Bobby Logan…)

They stuck us in the front row and June and I sat through an awful lot of awards for folks who do make-up on soap operas and lighting design on game shows. I am not knocking those folks or what they do at all, and I did enjoy seeing how happy some of the winners seemed to be. There's just a limit to how much interest I can generate about people I've never heard of who work on shows I've never heard of. At one point, I was in the men's room and I overheard a gentleman on a cell phone say to someone, and this is darn near verbatim…

So they just gave an award to The Nate Berkus Show and I'm sitting there thinking, "What the f is The Nate Berkus Show?" Then I go out to the lobby and someone says to me, "Congratulations for The Nate Berkus Show" and I said to them, "I don't have anything to do with The Nate Berkus Show. I don't even know what The Nate Berkus Show is" and she says, "Doesn't your company produce The Nate Berkus Show?" And I found out that yeah, we're involved with it somehow. So I'm really happy for us.

That eavesdrop, more than anything I could tell you, captures what I feel about awards like this…especially once you know that what The Nate Berkus Show won for was Best Scenic Design. I can well understand the pride and glee of those scenic designers. I don't understand why anyone else thinks they won anything because they have some tangential connection to success.

Eventually, it was time for June to present and for me to escort her to the stage. (They had us listed as co-presenters but I made her do all the talking. My role was to maintain a vise-grip on her upper arm. Getting up on stage meant walking over cables and climbing rickety stairs…and then they had a wobbly riser she had to stand on to be tall enough to be seen behind the lectern. Much younger people were stumbling a bit and I just made sure June remained upright.) When Candi introduced us and we entered, June got the one and only standing ovation of the evening. It was worth putting on the tux just for that.

We presented three animation-related awards. The folks who won for Outstanding Casting for an Animated Series or Special seemed happier to receive the award from June Foray than they did to receive the award.

A few categories after we returned to our seats, it was time for the one in which June was nominated. Those who'd routined the event did not know for sure whose name would be in the envelope but I think they arranged things in the expectation that it would be June. The voiceover that introduced her as presenter made special note of who she was and that this was her first-ever nomination. Ergo, a few minutes later when she won, there was a special thrill out in the audience. A big whoop! went up and that whoop! was maybe my favorite thing about the evening. The crowd was really happy about the selection.

So was June but she was truly stunned for a few seconds. She was stunned the morning that the nominations were released and I called to tell her. She was stunned last night when she won. I got her back up to the stage and she made a wonderful acceptance speech. I hope they show at least a little of it on the other Daytime Emmy ceremony which unlike last night's will be televised. It's June 23 on HLN. I'm not sure if video from last night will be available anywhere else.

After all that, there was a party and June posed for a lot of photos. I had to keep "spotting" her because an Emmy is not a lightweight thing and she literally could not hold hers for more than a few seconds at a time. It's not easy to lift a figurine that's almost as big as you are.

An awful lot of people, many of them winners themselves, came up to congratulate her and maybe get a cell-phone pic with her. My favorite was an animator — I apologize for not getting his name — who also won last night. He told her that he'd done most of the animation on her character in Disney's Mulan and that it was a true honor to finally meet her. Gloria Allred (another presenter) also came by and said some wonderful things to June. That annoyed me a bit because it's now going to be a little more difficult to dislike Gloria Allred as much as I probably should.

As we left, we had to navigate through a maze of fans who'd congregated just outside the party area. They were mostly there to see and maybe get autographs from the daytime drama stars in attendance and there was a young woman there who was quizzing everyone who exited, asking "Did you win?" and "What show you on?" She was trying to identify any possible celebs for herself and the people around her. She asked me, "Did you win?" I pointed to June and said, "She won." The lady asked what show and I told her, "That woman is the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel." There was a moment of disbelief: That tiny older person is Rocky the Flying Squirrel? But we were toting one of those big boxes in which people were taking home their Emmys so I guess that gave us credibility and June got another whoop!, this time from a mob of folks in t-shirts and jeans. I liked that second whoop! almost as much as the first one.

And I'll tell you one other thing I liked about last night and this did not involve June. Shortly after Midnight, I stopped in at the 24-Hour FedEx/Kinko's near my house to pick up the printed scripts for tomorrow. The lady behind the counter looked at me in my tuxedo and I said to her, "What's the matter? Don't you dress to pick up your Xeroxing?"