It isn't every day a friend of Gawker is nominated for an Emmy award. Come to think of it, it isn't any day...To commemorate the occasion we asked former media public enemy/Top Chef judge Toby Young to share the experience.
His account follows:
"You're bringing a book?" This was Tom Colicchio's reaction on seeing the paperback in the pocket of my Tux. Had that been a mistake?
It was 1.30pm when I got into the limo with Tom outside our hotel and the Emmys weren't due to start until 5pm. Even factoring in a bit of red carpet action, that was a lot of down time.
Top Chef was nominated for six Emmys this year, including one for hosting and one for outstanding reality show. As a regular judge on the show, I had been flown in by Bravo to attend the ceremony. It felt strange heading over to the event in a limousine with Tom. Back in my days as a hard-drinking rogue journalist I had crashed plenty of award shows, but I'd never been invited to one before.
Gail Simmons was also in the car and we discussed whether to rush the stage if Top Chef won in the hosting category. Technically, the hosts of the show are Tom and Padma — they were the named nominees — but I did my best to convince Gail that if we grabbed the Emmys before them we'd probably be able to keep them.
One of my closest friend in Los Angeles is a television writer and the previous night he'd told me about a similar stunt pulled by a couple of writers on a show he'd worked on that won a Golden Globe. These two writers weren't the named nominees, but they'd rushed the stage, hoping to grab the statuettes, only to be apprehended by security. Afterward, an official of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association came and sat down at their table and told them that all the writers on the show, including my friend, were entitled to take home a Globe. "All you have to do is fill out these forms," he said, pulling a sheaf of documents out of his pocket. The only snag was that they'd have to cough up $750 a piece. "Back then, the Globes weren't as big a deal as they are today," my friend explained. "In retrospect, I wish I'd handed over the cash."
Tom revealed that, as a nominee, he'd had to fill out a long questionnaire sent to him by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. "One of the questions said, ‘If you weren't an actor, what you be?'" revealed Tom. "I didn't know how to answer that one."
He'd also been sent an elaborate set of guidelines, telling him exactly how to behave if he won. If you were nominated as part of a group, only one member of the group was allowed to speak and if you went on for more than 40 seconds they would cue the orchestra to play you off. Tom didn't think this applied to the hosting category and if he and Padma won they were planning to speak for 15 seconds each.
"Who's going to speak first?" I asked.
"In that case, forget about it. She's just going to carry on talking until they cue the music."
In the event, this wasn't put to the test because the Emmy in question went to Jeff Probst for hosting Survivor. I had joked to Padma the night before that if she didn't win I was going to "do a Kanye", ie, storm the stage, grab the statuette and say, "This should have gone to Padma."
"Oh please, please, please do that," she said, her eyes sparking with mischief.
As anyone who watched the Emmys will know, good sense prevailed. One of the reasons I restrained myself is because I was convinced that Top Chef would win for outstanding reality show and that category was up next. I didn't want to tarnish what would be a proud moment for the show by behaving like a jackass. (There's quite enough of that in each episode.)
I carefully placed the book I'd brought under my chair. Gail and I really would be going up on stage if Top Chef won in this category — "We all go up," Tom explained — and I didn't want to be seen by 13 million people clutching a copy of Hold Tight by Harlan Coben.
Unfortunately, we didn't win for outstanding reality show either. For the third year running, Top Chef was beaten by The Amazing Race. A clip was shown in which a deaf contestant told the host that being in The Amazing Race meant the world to him because it proved that deaf people could achieve their dreams, too. This proved to be such an emotional moment that both the deaf man and the host broke down in tears. Cue rapturous applause in the Emmy auditorium. In the bar afterwards, I told Tom that if we wanted to stand a chance next year we'd have to get some contestants with disabilities.
"That's why we hired you Toby," he said.
Believe it or not, going home empty handed wasn't too much of a blow. We were up against 27 different reality shows in our category — that's how many official submissions there were — and to make it to the final shortlist of six was an achievement in itself. At least, that's what I kept telling myself as I headed off to the HBO party in my limo, reading Hold Tight. In any event, there's always next year …