The Emmys, television’s highest honors, will be presented belatedly Sunday under the cloud of the Sept. 11 attacks with many stars planning to bypass strutting down the red carpet and to leave their egos and low-cut dresses at home.
“It’s an awkward time for everybody, and people are still feeling unsure about whether it’s the right time or not,” said veteran Hollywood publicist Heidi Schaeffer. “People aren’t looking to call attention to themselves right now.”
Reflecting the Emmys’ subdued tone this year, many stars have decided to forego the ceremony’s red-carpet arrival, among them nominees Martin Sheen of “The West Wing,” Kelsey Grammer of “Frasier” and Andy Garcia for HBO’s “For Love or Country.” Many others, like Lisa Kudrow from “Friends” and Kim Cattrall of “Sex and the City,” were still undecided about how to make their entrance, publicists said.
Those who do tread the carpet will do so without cheers from starry-eyed fans – the bleachers have been removed – and without the fashion commentary of comedian Joan Rivers, whose traditional pre-show with daughter Melissa on cable network E! Entertainment Television has been canceled.
“I lost two friends and Melissa lost people,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times from New York. “This whole city is in a state of malaise…. To put on the bangles and the beads, it’s a little early.”
Other celebrities who would have been expected to attend the event have opted out altogether, including actress Sarah Jessica Parker, a nominee for “Sex and the City,” who cited a scheduling conflict for her no-show.
Many of the biggest names among this year’s crop of Emmy nominees also were absent from the list of stars attending Thursday night’s Performing Nominees Reception hosted by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
But a spokesman for the academy said that was due to the fact that most shows are now in production, making it difficult for some performers to attend. The 53rd annual Primetime Emmys were originally scheduled to be presented on Sept. 16 but were postponed for three weeks after the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks that killed more than 5,700 people.
To accommodate East Coast actors, producers and executives still worried about cross-country flights, organizers of the show will simulcast a portion of the ceremony from a studio in New York City. But the bulk of the event will be televised on CBS from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Emmys executive producer Don Mischer has said most of the performers originally slated to attend the show still plan to be there, though he acknowledged many in the industry remain ambivalent.
“Our community has really agonized over this,” he said in a conference call this week, adding that no attempt was being made to set ground rules for acceptance speeches.
“We are not going out and telling nominees what to say or encouraging them to say certain things,” he said. “It’s the one thing about shows of this type that you cannot produce, you do not have any control over.”
Organizers of the show said the ceremony will be considerably more muted than in the past.
Music will figure less prominently and the dress code has been officially changed from formal wear to business attire, but that doesn’t mean it will look like a funeral service.
“I don’t think there’ll be lots of cleavage and all of that, but I don’t think everybody’s going to be in black, especially the women,” said Schaeffer of the Hollywood publicity firm PMK. “I think you’ll see some color.”
She said Martin Sheen, nominated for his role as President Bartlet on NBC’s “The West Wing,” was passing up the red-carpet because “I just don’t think that he wants to deal with all that fanfare right now…. He plays the president, and you can only imagine what the questions are going to be” from the media.