Emmys: 3 Hours of People-Watching at the Alcohol-Free Bar

Michael O'Connell -alcohol-free Emmy lobby 2016 - H 2016
Courtesy of THR Staff

In the grand history of journalists and alcohol, I decided to stake out the Microsoft Theater lobby bar for the duration of Sunday's Primetime Emmys — forgoing a seat inside the telecast in favor of (soberly) documenting the comings and goings and drinkings of the TV glitterati.

This blatant creeping, an ultimately ill-fated play to best position myself for a glimpse at expected Emmy guests Beyonce and Jay Z, was spent primarily on the ground floor. I bounced between the bars on the north and south sides of the lobby, logging 3,000-ish steps according to my iPhone, and tried to best decipher what was happening during the awards ceremony from the two tiny TVs playing the show on mute. 

One thing that did not happen — for anybody — was drinking.

4:48 p.m. The Doubleday sisters — Kaitlin of Empire and Portia of Mr. Robot — are the first I see denied at the bar. It closed 15 minutes earlier in an effort to push people into the theater for the show, but I'm told it will reopen at 5:15.

4:57 p.m. TV power couples topline the list of stragglers who manage to make it in before the doors are shut. There's Sam Esmail and Emmy Rossum, Amanda Peet and David Benioff, Jordan Peele and Chelsea Peretti and, finally, Liev Schreiber with his dapper 9-year-old son.

5:08 p.m. They're removing the velvet rope around the ice sculpture. This has to mean something.

5:19 p.m. A fellow reporter informs me that there is, in fact, no alcohol being served during the show. Disbelief, horror and confusion follow.

5:26 p.m. Passing Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, who is scarfing a turkey bacon wrap, I sidle up to the bar where my hot tip is confirmed. I take the news in stride, as the difference between Bud Light and Dasani is negligible. The man at the next register is decidedly more butthurt. He responds to the declaration of "no liquor" by asking for a Stella. Poor guy.

5:30 p.m. Do you know who else is annoyed by the teetotaling edict? The bartenders. "It really hurts us," one tells me. "Nobody tips for soda."

5:35 p.m. Peter Scolari is presenting. It looks like he's crying, but no one can tell because there is no sound. The swarm in the lobby, empty 20 minutes ago, is now several-hundred strong. Most seem to be seeking booze and walking away with go-cups of Caesar salad.

5:43 p.m. More disappointment comes as Beyonce's absence is confirmed. As a consolation, I spot Michael Weatherly (the Beyonce of CBS) posing for selfies with adult fans who seem to have mistaken this for the People's Choice Awards.

5:59 p.m. The restless lobby crowd thickens, and I'm shocked at how few familiar faces I see. I can I.D. executives and actors and recognize most writers, producers and agents as well. Who are these nameless people deemed worthy of Emmy entry?

6:20 p.m. Jimmy Kimmel's PB&J delivery is a real crowd-pleaser. Dozens pour into the lobby at the commercial break to empty the contents of their paper bags and gleefully Instagram and Snapchat pictures of malnourished apples and dry sandwiches.

6:35 p.m. House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti did not finish his caramel corn and generously gives me the rest of the bag. It's so much better than spending $4 for a wet, room-temperature hot dog.

6:37 p.m. Padma Lakshmi is trying to pin her dress. She defers a selfie requested by a group of those sandwich delivery people.

6:40 p.m. The cast of Silicon Valley, comedy race now done for the next hour, huddle around Martin Star and his salad.

7:03 p.m. I briefly forgot I'm supposed to be documenting what's happening here because every third person is asking me to take their photo. This is the burden of flying solo, playing iPhone paparazzi for people who care more about getting some record of their attendance than how horrible they look beneath unflattering LED lights. (See above photo.)

7:13 p.m. A Fox executive, who shall go unnamed, bolts to meet his colleagues who've already abandoned ship for a drink at neighboring Katsuya.

7:22 p.m. RuPaul can't have spent more than 20 minutes in the ceremony. I haven't been keeping that close of an eye, but I've pretty sure been sizing people up from various corners of the lobby (in an very indiscreet paisley suit) almost all night.

7:35 p.m. It has been said that the absence of A-list talent in the lobby is attributed to some mythical green room where the booze flows in abundance and there aren't any creeps taking notes on how many times people use the bathroom. Attempts at further investigation come up as dry as the bar.

7:41 p.m. The late hour has not stopped people from trying to get alcohol. Another frustrated Emmy-goer is turned away at the bar, now closing down, despite the fact that parties are mere minutes away.

7:55 p.m. This is the way the Emmys end. Not with a bang — but with hundreds of people, none of whom appear to care about Veep or Game of Thrones repeating series wins, pouring out of the Microsoft Theater early like sequined cattle. Glasses of champagne await them, and me, on the steps of the Governors Ball.