LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- When the lights go down on TV's most important night, the party is only beginning for the biggest stars, many of whom depart the annual Emmy ceremony and make their way to a series of network-hosted after-parties scattered throughout Los Angeles.
But the first stop for Emmy-winning stars is often the exclusive Emmy Governors Ball, held at the elegantly appointed L.A. Live Event Deck, only a few hundred yards from the site of the Emmy ceremony.
While the closing credits were still rolling on Sunday night's 71st Primetime Emmy telecast, ticketed A-listers were quietly ushered from the theater to the after-party.
"I haven't been to too many of these things," said Norman Lear, who, at age 97, is history's oldest living Emmy winner. Lear received his fifth career Emmy at this year's Creative Arts Emmy ceremony, held Sept. 14, winning for his recent ABC special, Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons.'
In addition to his Creative Arts Emmy win, Lear served as a presenter on Sunday night's Primetime Emmy telecast.
"It's a very exciting night," Lear told UPI. "An Emmy win at my age? It's an exclamation point on being alive.
"I've got nothing to complain about. It's a lovely evening. We're here in the open air. We're with friends. What more could you want?"
Past incarnations of the Emmy Governors Ball were traditionally built around formal dining, with free-flowing cocktails and dancing to follow. And though drinking and dancing still consumed much of Sunday night, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences -- the organization that hosts the annual Emmy festivities -- chose to reimagine this year's after-party in a much more contemporary style.
Calling the evening "an elegant, flowing feast," celebrity chef Joachim Splichal, founder of LA's Patina Restaurant Group, emphasized the free-form nature of the event. In place of the traditional sit-down dinner, Splichal embraced a trendy aesthetic with small plates and passed hors d'oeuvres.
Splichal offered up more than 30 distinct dishes for the evening, with options ranging from grass-fed beef tenderloin and creamy potato gratin to vegan beet "poke" and mini-wedge salads. Mexican street corn ravioli, yellowtail sashimi and red wine-braised short ribs were also seen.
For celebs with a fast food-forward palate, caterers offered a variety of sliders and small milkshakes. And to sate the celebrity sweet tooth, dozens of dessert stations were scattered throughout.
"This whole thing is such a surreal experience," said Eugene Levy, Emmy nominated for his work on the Pop TV series Schitt's Creek.
After four seasons with no Emmy attention, Creek received four nominations in 2019, including two for Levy. "It seems no one knew about our show for the first several seasons," Levy told UPI. "And now, all of a sudden, things are happening. It's hard to describe how it feels to be here."
Despite all the pomp surrounding the announcement of each Emmy win, the actual Emmy statues are handed to winners with no names engraved -- another fact that makes the official Emmy after-party a crucial part of any Emmy winner's evening. Inside, celebs waited patiently at special Emmy engraving stations, where the personalized placards were fitted to each statue.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Tony Shaloub is no stranger to the Emmy engraving line, having won three previous statues for his eight-season run on the USA detective series Monk. Shalhoub picked up his fourth Emmy Sunday night as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on Maisel.
"I'm so fortunate to be a part of this show," Shalhoub said, stepping back from the Emmy engraving stand. "This win is just frosting on the cake.
"I work with the best people, the best writers, the most incredible actors. They've become some of my best friends. This win is almost too much."
When asked about the Academy's new approach to the after-party, Shalhoub expressed approval.
"I think it's great," he said "I see smiling people, good food. The music's not too loud. We're having a good time, and we're outside."
Musical entertainment is a central focus of each year's party, with attendees often treated to surprise musical guests. Recent years have seen appearances by jazz great Tony Bennett and opera star Andrea Bocelli, among others.
Sunday night's attendees were met with a performance by Tulsa-based singer Majeste Pearson, who captured the crowd with a performance of the Albert Hammond/John Bettis classic One Moment in Time -- a song popularized by Emmy winner Whitney Houston in 1988.
"You might say Whitney Houston was my first vocal coach," Pearson said. "I listened to her on repeat for years, and she was always my dream. I grew up singing to my stuffed animals -- singing Whitney Houston. And the lyrics of One Moment In Time are just perfect."
Pearson is the daughter of Bishop Carlton Pearson, whose story was featured in the 2018 Netflix film Come Sunday. Pearson also competed last year on the Fox reality series The Four: Battle for Stardom.
As Pearson stepped down from the Governors Ball stage, stars danced on into the night, many with their nearly 7-pound Emmy statues held tightly in hand.
"It's indescribable," Pearson said, looking on in reverence. "I'm 22 years old -- chasing my dream -- and it feels like destiny to be here."