Mel's Diner: Special Emmy Weekend Edition
September 20, 2007 4:00 PM
Who: Dann Florek, “Law & Order: SVU”; Al Gore
Where: NBC Universal’s pre-Emmy party, Spago, Beverly Hills; the Governors Ball, the Shrine, Los Angeles
When: Saturday, Sept. 15; Sunday, Sept. 16
The Dish: The Emmys are like a national holiday at Mel’s Diner. Throughout the awards weekend, the entire TV community gathers at party after party around town, where the best food and drink are served and spirits are high.
I stopped by several celebrations on Emmys Eve, and a couple following the awards Sunday. On both nights, I wound up eating dinner with some pretty special Emmygoers.
NBC Universal’s event at Spago Saturday night was as packed with stars, producers and execs as it was last year, when I moved a telephone off a counter in order to put my plate down.
This year, I saw a couple of seats open up at an actual table, and asked a woman sitting there if TVWeek Design Director Jennifer Ciminillo and I could join them. Turns out the couple was “Law & Order: SVU’s” Dann Florek and his wife, Karen Florek, a wonderful painter and photographer.
Dann portrays Capt. Donald Cragen, a role he originated on the flagship NBC series “Law & Order.” He and Karen live in Venice; he was getting ready to head to New York the following Tuesday, though, to start shooting the ninth season of “SVU.”
“SVU’s” Mariska Hargitay was nominated in the lead actress in a drama category, which was awarded to Sally Field the next day, but the show already was celebrating a win for Leslie Caron’s guest turn, which was announced the previous Saturday.
We talked food, life, driving and “SVU.” Dann was candid and animated. As he said, he “has an opinion about everything.”
Especially fun was our discovery that Dann, Karen, Jen and I all hailed from Michigan. Dann and Karen attended Eastern Michigan University.
Dann said he loves driving, which is not a surprise considering his roots—those of us who come from anywhere near Detroit tend to have a natural affinity for wheels.
“[Karen] thinks I hate to drive, because I think everyone else is an asshole,” Dann said. “But I need my f-you driving time!”
Going into the ninth season of “SVU,” Dann wouldn’t dish about any spoilers, but he did say his bosses are not afraid to “try new things” at this point in the run. He’s clearly very proud to be part of the series and the role it has played in addressing the stigma of rape.
“I feel blessed in a lot of ways,” he said. “In addition to being an entertainment show, our show, we actually serve a purpose.”
“SVU” has become emblematic of people seeing it and then having the guts to say, “I was raped,” he said.
“They feel like they somehow now have the support to go after help. What I love is many of these women are now saying they can rise above it. Even 20 years ago there was shame involved and they would have felt they did something wrong,” he said. “What’s happening now, the show is somehow part of that. It’s a trigger. People think not only ‘I should,’ but ‘I can get help.’”
My dinner seating luck continued throughout the weekend. When a group of us from TelevisionWeek found our table at the Governors Ball after the awards show, we saw that Al and Tipper Gore and the former vice president’s colleagues from his Current TV cable network shared the same table—table 312.
The cable network was honored that evening with an Emmy for creative achievement in interactive television, so we got to sit with an Emmy statuette to boot.
TVWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert got some quality chatting time with Tipper. We didn’t get to talk too much to Al, as a steady stream of attendees kept him out of his chair, taking photos and shaking hands. Jen, Sue Teitle from TVWeek advertising sales and I, of course, added ourselves to that list before we left.
Dined On: Yes, yes, the food.
The best of the buffet at the NBC U party was the sweet corn-filled pasta. A close second: the sliced beef, which is difficult to attack with a knife and fork while standing—the reason we crashed the Floreks’ table.
Spago also was serving lots of classic Wolfgang Puck appetizers. Dann’s favorite was the tuna tartare, while Karen loved the little sliders.
Dann also gave props to the buffet’s grilled veggies. “One of the hardest things to do is grilled vegetables. It’s very hard to keep them crispy,” he said. “These were there, baby.”