Backstage at the Emmys

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A flustered S. Epatha Merkerson and a charming Tony Shalhoub were among the press favorites backstage at the 57th Annual Emmy Awards.

Merkerson -- named outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or movie for her role as Nanny in Home Box Office's Lackawanna Blues --had still been unable to retrieve her acceptance-speech notes when she hit the press room about one hour after she accepted her award. On camera, she confessed that she'd tucked the note into the bosom of her dress, and backstage she giggled nervously about its mysterious migration out of reach sometime during the night.

On a more serious note, she happily noticed the night's trend toward acknowledgement of mature actors over younger leading men and women. She said she hoped TV would continue to acknowledge older women.

"I think I'm cute when I'm glowing from a hot flash," quipped the actress.

Shalhoub, the best-comedy-actor Emmy winner from USA Network's Monk,confessed that he considered accepting his statuette in character, which would require grabbing it with a handkerchief over his hand. But then he decided that since the statute is of a woman's body, the quirky Monk wouldn't want to touch it at all, so he just played it straight and graciously accepted the honor.

Shalhoub said he thinks Emmy voters today give as much attention to cable nominees as those from broadcast. "HBO's cleared the path" for cable Emmy contenders, he added.

Following the awards, winners fanned out to parties around the city, including an HBO party at the Pacific Design Center.

Showtime's bash at the Katana Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard competed for guests with the Entertainment Tonight/People magazine party directly across the street at the Mondrian Hotel. Passers-by were frequently startled by jaywalkers dashing into traffic bearing golden statuettes and crossing between parties.

According to local broadcast reports, the TV Guide after-party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with headliner Missy Elliot, was marred when two party-goers got into an altercation over a female party guest. Law enforcement responded, but no arrests were made, according to reports.

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