International Emmy Awards: Lady Gaga Steals Show, Nigel Lythgoe Takes Jabs at Simon Cowell

Lady Gaga and Nigel Lythgoe
Lady Gaga and Nigel Lythgoe
 Stan Honda/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Lady Gaga stole the show at the 39th annual International Emmy Awards.

The pop star made a surprise appearance to bestow the Founders Award on Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

"He always spoke poetically about the pursuit of widening the boundaries of love and acceptance in TV," she said.

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Lythgoe received the award for his outstanding contributions to dance and performing arts on television.

Gaga introduced a video tribute to Lythgoe that heavily featured American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and host Ryan Seacrest alternately honoring and ribbing the American Idol exec producer.  

When the video ended and the lights came back up, Gaga quipped: "I think the four of them are really jealous. It takes a fool to judge but a true genius to find talent."

Lythgoe called Gaga "the most creatively talented woman working in show business right now."

He also singled out the original Idol judges.

"Three judges that will never ever be forgotten: Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and ah ...," he said in a nod to Republican president candidate Rick Perry's recent debate gaffe, which some interpreted as pretending to blank on former judge Simon Cowell's name.  

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"Simon Cowell unfortunately can't be here tonight due to injuries from self-inflected love bites," said Lythgoe to laughter from the audience gathered at the New York Hilton on Monday night.

"I now call Simon Lord Voldemort, because he must not be named, because every time I name him, the press says we are enemies, and (we) are fighting each other," he added of the X Factor judge.

"That's not truthful. Simon has no enemies whatsoever in the world, but a lot of friends who hate him."

Lythgoe cited the illustrious company he is now in as a Founders Award winner, including Al Gore, Sir David Frost, Steven Spielberg and Cowell.

"That is a Vice President, a Knight of the Realm, an honorary Knight of the Realm ... and God."

Lythgoe also singled out Fox reality chief Mike Darnell -- who was in attendance and whom Lythgoe urged to stand.

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"People joke about Mike's height," said Lythgoe of the diminutive Darnell. "He is, after all, one of the few people I know who's got a full-length photograph of himself in his passport. He may be small in stature, but trust me, this man is enormous in talent. His support on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance has been both productive and invaluable to me."

Lythgoe concluded his acceptance speech with a heartfelt thank-you to Simon Fuller, Idol creator and Dance co-creator.

"I tonight for some reason have been given the title of creator of American Idol," he said. "That is absolutely not true. The creator of American Idol is a gentleman who came up to me 11 years ago and said I have got this idea for a [talent] show and people telephone in and vote for people. I naturally said that is a terrible idea -- it will never work."

Some years later, Fuller pitched the same idea for a dance competition show, prompting the same response from Lythgoe.

"Thank God he changed my mind on both occasions," he said. "Simon, thank you, thank you, thank you. Without you, I would not be here."

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Subhash Chandra, chairman of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited and founder of the Essel Group, accepted the Directorate Award.

Chandra, who left immediately after his speech to fly back to Mumbai in time for his nephew's wedding, revolutionized India's television industry when in 1992 he launched the country's first satellite Hindi channel, ZEE TV. Today, ZEE Network is the largest producer of Hindi programming in the world with 25 channels and over 600 million viewers in 167 countries.

In his acceptance speech immediately following Lythgoe's, Chandra noted that an Indian singing competition series "was launched much before American Idol and is exactly the same as American Idol."

He added that when he brought this to the attention of Idol producer Fremantle, "they offered me five six, formats to run free on (Hindi) television rather than have a conflict about it."

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When the audience started to volubly murmur, Chandra asserted, "No it's true."

Other big winners of the night included the British series Accused, which picked up Emmys for drama series and actor Christopher Eccelston. The Swedish movie series Millennium -- the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films starring Noomi Rapace -- earned the Emmy for TV movie and miniseries.

Rapace and Michael Nyqvist were nominated for acting awards but did not win.

Accepting the award for the films, Millennium producer Soren Staermose said, in somewhat broken English: "We will jump off the roof with this beautiful (statue) and hit every man who still hates women."

A complete list of winners can be found on the next page.

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