When we think of people traversing from all over the country to dress up, sit at adjacent tables, drink and celebrate, most often a wedding or family reunion comes to mind. Take away a ranting toast by crazy Uncle Leo, throw in an all pervasive theme of educational, suspenseful, and enterprising television, and a dash of all the work that goes on behind it, a golden goddess statue or two and you’ve got the Creative Daytime Emmy Awards.
Held at the Universal Hilton on the last Friday of April, the 42nd Annual Creative Emmy Awards boasted the accomplishments of costume designers, sound mixers, lighting experts, and even a surprise award for best guest actor on a Soap Opera all encompassing one of the most heralded and groundbreaking years thus far in Daytime Television. From The Bold and the Beautiful’s enterprising shoots in Paris, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, to a first time recreation of a music video on The Ellen Show, to Sesame Street’s lighthearted parody of Star Wars, to the new and decidedly indie Soap The Bay bringing it on home for best new original Soap Opera, 2014 is sure to go down as a watershed year in history!
Hosted by Florence Henderson and Alex Trebek, the lobby and the press room of the Universal Hilton were alive on the night of April 24th with a most singular pomp and circumstance, to speak nothing of Trebekian tastefulness and Bradyesque ebullience!
As Ms. Henderson in all her Mrs. Bradyish excitement took the podium for Broadcast, you just knew she would be right there cheering each and every contender like she did all six of her children; only at this juncture we were looking at more like 60 to 600 contenders! Joined by a distinguished Mr. Trebek, one could only half wonder if he would put any of the suspense pertaining to the winners in Jeopardy; incumbent on any and all habitually related reverse sentence structure.
Both hosts assured us we would be home in time to see Nightline but admonished all audience members that we would miss the timely and groundbreaking imminently airing interview with Bruce Jenner (possibly worthy of a prospective Emmy for the Calendar year of 2015). But we were celebrating Emmy nods for 2014 darnitall—of which there were copious amounts–and would have to settle for being finished by Letterman. Prior to dispensation, Alex Trebek delighted in some cross referential pre-positioning as he showed varying clips, throughout the years, of Ms. Henderson on numerous and sundry game shows. Ms. Henderson would answer back with her own banter vis a vis electronic media-inspired moments of days gone by as she prompted a clip of Mr. Trebek appearing in rare televised form in his own right on The X Files. Mr. Trebek then went on to describe a so-called fan who, years later, would ask to touch him as he had touched David Duchovny. “Well a lot of people have touched David Duchovny,” clucked a most bawdy Mrs. Brady/Henderson and we were off to a rip-rollicking commencement!!!
As the Emmy recipients disembarked the red carpet over–some smiling, some glassy-eyed, some irrevocably stunned,–I would ultimately lose track of the celebration transpiring on the tube to my right while inadvertently (and respective of nothing) would not be able to help but note that the music used to play artisans on and offstage sounded liltingly like the Three’s Company theme song. Winners would speak of the experience of hearing their names called, the heft (like that of a newborn or a very large Chihuahua) of the most singularly beautiful statue (and the toil involved in its luggage) and muse upon the idea (as Emma Thompson once quipped at an alternate awards ceremony), “of winning two and wearing them as earrings”…
Most fascinating topics of red carpet banter for the evening would include artists’ sometimes likely and unlikely forays into their current fields, personal stories and interpretations on their wins, along with their most proud moment or moments from 2014: The year in Television being celebrated.
Subject matter ranged from Cookie Monster and Bert, to Ellen Degeneres, to soap operatic drama, to Engineering—children’s engineering that is…
People from all walks of life, all artistic backgrounds and all manner of comfort or discomfort levels within the public eye were more than forthcoming:
“I feel bad about this. I’m [usually] behind the camera,” admitted a somewhat besieged Liz Patrick after her directorial win for The Ellen Show.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve shaken, and I was shaking,” declared Michael Corrado after hearing his name called upon a garnered Emmy for Art Direction on the R.L. Stine Haunting Hour. “We’re around big stars all the time, it’s no big deal. It never affects me–nothing. Hanging on set with Gwyneth Paltrow?–no big deal and I was shaking when I was getting this!”
“We were sitting way far in the back we thought, they wouldn’t make us walk all that way,” declared Matthew Gerard on his win for Best original Theme Song in a Children’s Series: Dora and Friends–Into the City (Nickelodeon)
”I was holding our 36-pound son, so it felt longer than it was!” Gerard’s resilient and stamina driven co-composer and wife Elizabeth Ashley Saunig Gerard would invariably chime in.
Production Designer Dan Olexiewicz, Art Director Danielle Mullen, and Art Director Tom Early had a bit of their own hearty, and ecstatic banter pertaining to their spotlighted moment upon winning for best Artistic Design for Days of Our Lives.
Dan-I almost didn’t believe it to tell you the truth.
Danielle-We were just shocked.
Dan-It happened so fast—I said ‘Okay guys, it’s like the roller coaster. Strap in ‘cause here it comes!’
Tom-And an actor who’s been on our show who we know presented it so that was nice…
Dan-Yeah he was one of the presenters. So it’s like full circle. Maybe that was a good omen right?
(And if the above trialogue does not win an Emmy for SOMETHING next year—perhaps best dialogue at the Emmys pertaining to winning and Emmy—Why I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!)
Melissa Carlson; Producer of the PBS Children’s program Design Squad (out of WCBH in Boston) centering around engineering, had her own anecdote of coincidental accident, “It was crazy–super, super crazy. There was another GBH project Club Landing that I also worked on which was also nominated. So we were up against ourselves… I wasn’t sure which one of us was going to win. So it was exciting to go up and represent WGBH… I flew out here for the event. I’m the only one from my team out here tonight, so it was amazing to be up there—a little bit scary but [amazing]!”
“I was shocked…we’ve lost a lot tonight and it was a big surprise,” exclaimed Todd James of his win for multi camera editing on Sesame Street. “Ellen’s sweeping tonight so…We won…we’re humbled and it’s always an honor to have this nomination and a reward!”
“Ellen’s been on Sesame Street if I recall,” I would reply. So really, when one considers it, it’s a win all around. Particularly when James’ partner in crime, Jesse Ibarra, chimed in about some of the wonderful and innovative things Sesame Street has been up to this year; “One thing that stood out to me [this year] was a music video [we did] with Janelle Monae, The Power of Yet and it included all of our characters all over the set and the message was just powerful. It’s one of those sticky moments that you know that it’s just so catchy and so important that hopefully it’ll get noticed!”
“We [also] did a show also called Bert’s Tricycle [in the] CG world,” James would add. “He’s riding his tricycle with nobody—CGI background he’s by himself going through Sesame Street. It’s amazing!”
Sustained wins continued for Sesame Street throughout the night, not the least of which would encompass a nod for sound editing for live action granted to a most charming duo in the form of Dick Maitland and Michael Barrett.
“We did a take-off on Star Wars with Cookie Monster and a cookie as Chewbacca,” Mr. Maitland informed me. “We totally took off Star Wars [and took it] into the Jungle, [along with] Grover. It was unbelievable! It’s a testament to the workshop and to the vision that Joan Cooney set up that we still look at the five-year-old as our target audience. And that target audience doesn’t change from generation to generation… Kids are very sensitive to sound at that age. This is why they give us a lot of time to get it right ‘cause this is part of our program material and then when you look at generation to generation, we can still sell them stuff we did in season one because it speaks directly to the five-year-olds, as many other shows don’t do and we have a lot of competition out there.”
“[The Star Wars take-off] was really fun but it also incorporates all the lessons and it’s great to see parents continuing to respond to the show and keep it alive,” added Mr. Barrett.
Meantime, I couldn’t help but remark that while Sesame Street has kept up with the times like nobody’s business, it has also stayed impressively the same from the time I was a child to the present day.
Maitland-Cookie Monster [still] eats something and goes ‘Argh Um um um!’
Hugus-And he would be eating this tape recorder right now.
Maitland-Cookie’s still eating cookies. Once in awhile he eats a tomato.
Barrett-He likes the broccoli sometimes too.
Maitland-But we try to discourage him because that’s not good for his image.
Jumping genres completely but with a resolute eye on image, the indomitable fashion oriented Soap Opera The Bold and the Beautiful came to mind—then presented itself.
“The episodes that we submitted [for consideration] were the Dubai Episodes,” disclosed John Nordstrom, Emmy Winner for Best Dramatic Score and Music Composition for The Bold and the Beautiful. “They were all filmed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and I wrote a bunch of Middle Eastern inspired music. It was super dramatic and modern and [backed] a lot of action and tension but also had Middle Eastern instruments that made it really feel like you were there… That’s the cool thing about The Bold and the Beautiful, they do all these great location shoots and I get to write music that’s indigenous to that part of the world so it’s really amazing.”
“We had a great shoot in Paris which was so much fun,” declared Brad Bell Emmy winner for Hands of Time for Best Original Song for The Bold and the Beautiful . “The crew was fantastic. We were shooting a fashion show with the Eiffel Tower in the background–Trocadero Fountains. We were also in Abu Dhabi and we were in Amsterdam—amazing year. 2014 was a year of traveling the world!”
“Brad loves to challenge his production crew,” added Bell’s partner in crime Tony Ferrari. “So just when I think we’ve accomplished what he wants, he comes up with something even greater to pull off, whether it’s Ridge falling out of a helicopter, Liam and Ivy on the canals of Amsterdam, Brad is always coming up with innovative things for the show and somehow we all work together and I just thank him for my job and his vision, and I love working for him!”
But The Bold and the Beautiful was not the only cast and crew to have traveled the globe in 2014.
“Hunt climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjoro this year, exclaimed Corey Choi of his cohort Hunt Beatty along with Robin Shore for their Emmy win for Born to Explore – Syndicated –Sound Recording Live Action. “I got to touch a baby Rhino and Robin and I are just working on things from all over the world.”
“Rolling sound on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro [is incredible],” Hunt Beatty continued. “We’ve ridden an elephant, watched people tranquilize a rhino. Trying to figure out how to keep the sound focused while all these things are happening around you is just such an amazing experience because you want to be in the moment but you’re just so laser focused on just trying to make sure everyone can hear [every sound that’s supposed to be in the take].”
And if not traveling, certain television artisans the world over will stay in the good ol’ U.S. of A. and make alternate environments right here at home!
“We did one shoot where we painted some murals on a barn down in Kentucky so that’s the kind of extent that we go to for our title design,” said Dan de Graaf–Emmy Winner,along with Mike Houston for Main Title Sequence Graphic Design for The Mind of a Chef on PBS.
“We get dirty. We get in the shit. We love to be in the shit and Dan makes it look amazing afterwards,” added Mike Houston.
“I think at a certain point during the year I had a tent of black canvas with sand bags around my desk so that I could see the footage exactly the way it would look with no outside light and it seemed a little ridiculous at the time but I was doing it because I love working on this, I take it that seriously and in that sense I’m proud of this and it’s something that I’m really thankful that we’ve been rewarded for our work,” de Graff concluded.
Considering environments a little closer to home—or rather the set evocative of a certain sort of ambiance, “We have a really nice cool kind of nightclub it’s called The Edge of the Square. It kind of has a lot of up lighting in it and when you see that set on camera, it’s very special,” Emmy winner for Art Design on Days of Our Lives Dan Olexiewicz would inform us.
Some of my favorite answers to questions posed at this year’s Daytime Creative Emmys would have to have been, rejoinders to, “Concerning your work in 2014, what was your proudest moment?”
“We launched a new feature called a stuff spinner which basically took all these engineering projects we have on the site and made them more easily accessible to our audience so they were able to find what they wanted to build, use materials they had at home, and really go out and try engineering on their own,” explained Melissa Carlson of her win for Producer on the PBS kids’ engineering show Design Squad. “They’re so young and Design Squad is primarily an online community where kids are sharing their design and engineering ideas. So every day they send in these amazing ideas; things that they’d like to make, ways that they’d like to make the world a better place through engineering so it’s an incredibly inspiring project to work on!”
“It’s funny you [ask] that,” Kevin Kliesch, Emmy Winner for Music Composition for Sophia the First on Disney Channel exclaimed of my query, pertaining to favorite moment of 2014. “Because last year when I was at the Emmys I went up to my director and I said, ‘I just wrote this amazing suite for this episode and I’m so proud of it and it made me tear up.’ and it happened to be the episode I just won for tonight! So I was really, really proud of it a year ago and I wound up winning for it tonight which is kind of full circle!”
Liz Patrick Emmy Winning Director for The Ellen Show could only state what most of us would probably consider the obvious, “My favorite moments…? I think every day I have a favorite moment. Every day I laugh and it’s because of Ellen and my writers and that’s great!”
“Favorite moments?” mused Len Goodside, Emmy Winning Director of Let’s Make a Deal. “Well this [Emmy win] is certainly it, so far. But we have so many great events on Let’s Make a Deal—mostly things that never air… Wayne Brady and Jonathan Magnum [are] our talent and are so fantastic. They do tend to get a little adult and it’ll be stuff that’ll never air but some of the things they do off camera and just the fact that we can do things that are so off the cuff and improved [is amazing]. Because Wayne and his team all improv and we as a production team are forced to improv with them and I think that’s the challenge every day. We laugh so much every day on that show! We have such a great time and it’s a pleasure to work on.”
One of my favorite answers however came from Maurisa Davis, this year’s Daytime Emmy Award winner for lighting design for The Ellen Show. Giving the impression of being somewhat shy to be in the spotlight (pun intended) when prompted to walk the red carpet, she lit up (pun intended again) when asked after her favorite professional moment of 2014.
“You know what it was? We had (pop artist) Sia on [the show] and it was the first in the trilogy with Mattie the dancer and [the song] Chandelier… She wanted to be as true to the music video as she could and so we worked, in a television talk show setting, to recreate that with her, and she was just so amazing to work with, and it just felt like magic! When we finished, we all said that was magic. Again, she’s amazing to work with and it was just a challenge and a lot of fun! So when we did that, I said ‘That’s one for the reel!”
John Tesh, one of this year’s presenters, mused upon a very sweet and arresting favorite aspect to his 2014: “I’d say my proudest moment this year was when I figured out how to interact with my two granddaughters. It sounds weird but… I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old granddaughter and… I’m trying to figure out what to do with them, and my wife says, ‘Just play the piano!’ So now like at least 3 days a week, I make up these silly, ridiculous songs about my two granddaughters and they dance to them and…as goofy as it sounds I would have to say it’s my proudest moment!”
Also presenting this year, Jay and Bob, formally known as Jay Johnson and his partner in puppetry and cohort in crime—Bob! Up close and in person, I had an immediate soft spot in my heart for the duo and could not help fighting the urge to hold Bob’s hand during the second half of our short interview. “Just don’t get splinters, that’s all,” Mr. Johnson would kindly admonish.
“Wow! He’s so much nicer in real life than he was on Soap,” I will inform Mr. Johnson.
“Yeah he played a very nasty part but that’s not really like you is it?” he asked all the while regarding Bob.
“Yeah it is,” Bob quipped yet remained a perfect gentleman throughout the entire interview otherwise. Even after I opined that Bob ‘has most kind and soulful eyes’, it jinxed not his behavior.
I would then go on to inform Mr. Johnson that, back in the seventies, he reminded me of Luke Skywalker. “You know I get that. I’m very complimented,” after which Mr. Johnson turned to his cohort and asked, “Bob who do you get?” Charlie McCarthy was the general consensus but yours truly would not be able to help but add, “Charlie McCarthy with long-haired-Hippie hair!”
As to the duo’s favorite moment this year: “We released the movie of our one man show that we won a Tony for on Broadway so that would be my highlight. Jay Johnson: The Two and Only—Available on Hulu and Amazon and all those things…”
When asked how he knew he wanted to go into his profession Mr. Johnson will state, “Bob just walked in one day and said, ‘Hey come with me,’… I started when I was so young, I really don’t remember, but my show goes into all that and how we started and why. It’s [deals with] my history and my love of ventriloquism all at once. He’s been very good to me. It’s been a good ride…” It is a most satisfactory and heartening interchange.
One of the most infamous and exciting wins of the night encompassed that of three veterans of Television in a surprise triple victory for best guest starring role in a Soap in the form of Fred Willard for his memorable part of John Forrester, younger brother of fashion king Eric Forrester, on The Bold and Beautiful, Donna Mills for her appearance as Madeline Reeves on General Hospital, and Ray Wise for his acting stint as Ian Ward on The Young and the Restless.
Upon not being able to help noting Willard’s stand-out career in comedy, he would disclose;
“I always wanted to be on a Soap Opera and I [finally] got a chance to do it… [John Forrester was] kind of a light role, but still it was a great atmosphere. Because [when] you do a regular sitcom, they’re four or five days. They’re rewriting lines and shooting angles. [On a Soap] you come in and you’re in and out. It’s very exhilarating…to do a Soap Opera… Now if I ever do another show and they say ‘Take it from the top,’ [I’ll say], ‘Again? That’s not how we did it on The Bold and the Beautiful!’”
Donna Mills, no stranger to soap operatic drama had her own take on the matter! Best known for her role as Abby Cunningham on Knots Landing, any and all related expertise goes above and beyond that as she would disclose, “…A long time ago in New York I did The Secret Storm and I did Love is a Many Splendored Thing… I played a nun.” Pertaining to this year’s stint on General Hospital, she added, “I enjoyed the scenes in jail. I’d been there a lot though so I was really glad when I got to wear the orange jumpsuit because before that, I stayed in jail for maybe three weeks in the same dress. That was a lot of fun.”
Ray Wise would chime in briefly concerning his stint on The Young and the Restless before the three of them were escorted away in order to make their next presentation. “My character’s in jail right now too. I kidnapped someone so they put me in prison but…I can get out soon I think. I talked to the head writer tonight and maybe I will get out!”
Uncanny tour de force that these two co-won the guest actor nod along with Fred Willard who pretty much convicts anyone to a most captivating confinement of chortles in light of the humorous persona manifested in witnessing his real world antics and energy!
One of my highest privileges at the end of the night was speaking to lifetime achievement recipient, news man and game show producer Michael Gargiulo. Discussion revolved around the 1959 Kitchen Debate between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev along with The Ruble is Right—a Soviet take-off on the original.
“I was working at NBC [in the late fifties] as a staff director. NBC was owned by RCA in New York… 1959 was the height of the cold war with the Russians. But they suddenly wanted to do a cultural exchange. So the State Department went to the U.S. firms like RCA and said ‘They want to see our culture.’ So RCA was in the business of selling color and NBC wanted to show color television so it was a logical combination of events. So we built a studio in Sokolniki Park which is about 30 minutes outside Moscow and showed color television. Richard Nixon was then the vice president of the United States. He was escorting Khrushchev around and they started a debate in the kitchen… They were in a kitchen of a display next to the studio. It was like General Foods and General Mills. They were selling frozen foods which the Russians didn’t have at the time… The kitchen had nothing to do with the studio. But then they kept fighting and arguing as they’re walking and we were in the studio and I just rolled tape. We made the tape. We suddenly realized that maybe they said things they may not want to [be heard by a mass audience]…so we shipped it out quick! And the rest is just good luck! …We taped them…at 12 o’clock noon. By 2 o’clock it was on a plane!”
“And we stayed for another six weeks to show color television to the Russians. It was a huge success for the Russians. It was a huge success for us… [Then] one night, just as a joke, we did a show called The Ruble is Right which was a takeoff [on the American original] and the New York times wrote it up. So consequently, when I got back [to town I got a meeting with Mark Goodson]. So I met him. We had dinner one night and at the end of the dinner, he turns to me to say, ‘I’m starting a new show with a kid named Merv Griffin. You want to do it?… It’s called Play a Hunch.’ And I said, ‘yeah!’”
And the rest, as they say…is not only luck, but history!!!
After all awards are dispensed, all tables cleared, all red carpet interviews granted (but not before said plush and luxuriant scarlet walkway is rolled up) and long after Alex Trebek receives his car from valet (as I would witness him so doing on my way out) the Daytime TV world and the creativity behind, and in some cases, in front of it, is a much happier, lighter place; but only emotionally speaking. Physically the world itself is not any lighter, albeit a little more fair and balanced as the weight of these majestic statues is now distributed more evenly, fairly and safely in the hands of any and all deserving entertainment intellects rather than being concentrated in the ground floor of the Universal Hilton (who never did any work for Television a day in its life)!
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