Theme of this year's shindig was all about the far east isle of Siam, and the party space was dripping with purple and gold iconography and, of course delectable, and exotic eats. I particularly enjoyed an orange-chicken salad concoction with a light-sweet touch that hit the spot just right after getting parched in the packed-like-sardines press room for three-plus hours earlier in the night.
HBO's party space was packed with stars, execs of all stripes (not just Time Warner folks), and even the dance floor got busy at one point. The Journey power ballad "Don't Stop Believin'" that had such a powerful guest-star role in "The Sopranos" finale was playing (loudly) over the P.A. when I arrived at the party with Variety managing editor Kathy Lyford. Hearing that tune kinda put a slightly bittersweet vibe to the night for me, as if it was really HBO's final-final farewell to the show that put the network into overdrive, and of course it was made all the more poignant by "Sopranos" bagging the top Emmy prize one last time, plus prestige wins in the drama series writing (David Chase, for the finale) and directing (Alan Taylor) categories that it has long dominated.
The whole "Sopranos" gang seemed in great spirits, particularly Chase, who was remarkably open to a few thousand people sidling up to his table to gush about what the show meant to them (me included, and he even offered a smile when I mentioned how cool it is to see his name on "Rockford Files" segs.) Most important, Chase reiterated what he said backstage at the Shrine: Don't hold yer breath for a "Sopranos" movie. He won't say never-ever, but it'd have to be a fantastic idea that would make for a pic worthy of the series. I pressed him on what's next for him. He said nothing in particular, maybe a movie script down the road but nothing's on the front burner.
(Pictured above left: "Sopranos" kids Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler; at right, Time Warner prexy Jeff Bewkes and "Sopranos'" Tony Sirico.)
But I shouldn't overstate the case about the bittersweet-ness factor. For all the snarky talk of "H-B-Over" and the intense scrutiny that the channel is facing in the immediate post-Albrecht era, the outfit still remains in a class by itself in my opinion in terms of its ambition, scope, ability to draw names and of course, rolling out laaaaaavish parties. I wonder what the tab for cream puffs alone was last night?
(Funny thing, I was wondering about what ex-HBO CEO Chris Albrecht was up to on Sunday night as I wandered around the palacial HBO spread and sure enough, the New York Times answered the question with a gift-wrapped story about Albrecht joining Ted Forstmann's giant sports talent agency IMG. Click here for Variety's take.)
Another classy touch is how widely they spread the invites, making it feel like more of a communal bash than a corporate-marketing. Among the non-Time Warner execs I saw and hobnobbed with were Bravo's Lauren Zalazni ck, Fox's Mike Darnell, and his lovely wife Carolyn; and Disney Channel's Rich Ross (there were more but my memory's still recovering...) Plus, there was plenty of interesting celeb sightings and stars from non-HBO shows, including tennis diva Serena Williams, "America's Next Top Model's" Nigel Barker, "Mad Men's" Jon Hamm, "Top Chef's" Tom Colicchio to "Weeds'" Mary-Louise Parker (pictured right), "Grey's Anatomy's" Katherine Heigl (pictured left) who was toting her supporting drama actress trophy) to "Heroes'" Hayden Panettiere to "Office's" Jenna Fischer.