Abby Bays Rea, the sister of How I Met Your Mother co-creator and Shaker Heights native Carter Bays, attended the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards with her brother in September. She reports back on her unforgettable evening (even if 30 Rock did spoil the fairy-tale ending).
As told to Rebecca Meiser
Before leaving for Los Angeles, Abby got a fitting, styling and wardrobe consultation at Winds of Change in Chagrin Falls with makeup and hair help from John Roberts Spa. She wore a JS Boutique Embellished Jersey Knit Gown with a butterfly crystal broach.
Who is Carter going to take with him?
As his sister, I assumed it was my God-given birthright to go as his date to the Emmys. But just in case God was giving out mixed messages that day, I decided to put together a collection of arguments making my case for why exactly I deserved to go. Still, Carter remained noncommittal, so I dropped the issue. Then, just five days before the awards ceremony, he called. “Abs, will you be my date for the Emmys?” “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” I screamed and cried. But as soon as he hung up the phone, I had one single, terrifying thought: What am I going to wear?*
Sept. 20, Los Angeles
10:30 a.m. I wake up and start the process of blow drying, straightening and flatironing my super curly hair. Two hours later, I emerge from the bathroom and call out for Carter. He’s not there. Apparently, my brother has decided that one hour before our scheduled departure is a fabulous time for a swim.
2 p.m. The limo arrives! It comes with champagne! I love LA!
2:30 p.m. Carter and I pull up to the Standard Hotel. The place is way too cool for me. Instead of having rooms based on normal descriptions like “twin” or “queen-sized,” these rooms range in size from “lush large” to “wow.” We check in, and the hotel clerk upgrades Carter from room size “huge” to “humongous.”
3:30 p.m. When we get to the Nokia Theatre, I get my first Emmy revelation. There are two red carpets: one for the famous people and one for everyone else. Those deemed “not famous enough” are herded quickly to their seats by security. It takes a long time for the famous people to actually get into the theater, what with all the posing and preening and schmoozing. Carter and I step in the not-famous line before a CBS executive pulls us out. “He’s an Emmy nominee,” the producer tells security. We slip into the famous line, right behind Kevin Bacon and in front of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Even Julia’s shoulder blade is beautiful!
4:45 p.m. Carter and I are assigned to row N. We are seated behind the producers of 30 Rock and across the aisle from the Saturday Night Live cast. I spy Drew Barrymore, who’s talking to Alec Baldwin. I wait until they’re done and tap Drew on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” I say. “I loved Grey Gardens.” Drew smiles and says, “Thank you.” She has a very beautiful voice — very soft and wispy. I tell her that for my 30th birthday, my husband is throwing me a Grey Gardens birthday party. She says, “That sounds fun.” I say, “It was so great to meet you.” She smiles again.
5 p.m. The Emmys begin. How I Met Your Mother is considered the dark horse in the Outstanding Comedy Series category. The only way we think it will win is if the judges decide to throw caution to the wind this year. When Kristen Chenoweth, another underdog, wins for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, I turn to one of the writer’s wives and whisper excitedly, “Maybe they have a chance.”
5:30 p.m. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler walk onstage to announce the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Carter and I grab hands. We think this is the moment How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris finally gets his due. Neil does not win. We do not even pretend to look happy.
7:50 p.m. Bob Newhart takes center stage to announce the Best Comedy winner. Because I believe in things like fate and God and astrology, I think this must be a sign. Carter and I grew up watching Newhart. We grab hands. Bob rips open the envelope. And … no cameramen swing their cameras toward us. That’s when we know that the Emmy is not ours. It goes instead to 30 Rock. I start to cry. Carter just smiles and claps politely.
8 p.m. When it’s time to head to the Governor’s Ball, I get my next big surprise of the night: We have to walk the half-mile to the event. I turn to Carter: “Um, have you seen my heels?”
8:15 p.m. When we get to our table at the Governor’s Ball, I spy a seating chart. I scan the list for my favorite: Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order SVU. I walk briskly toward her table, feigning total surprise at seeing her. “Hi,” I say, smoothly angling my way into her conversation. “I’m Abby. I’m a huge fan.” I tell Mariska I’m glad she’s coming back for another season. Then I get my picture taken with her. I don’t stop grinning for the rest of the night.
9 p.m. I take a picture with Sarah Silverman. I notice my hair is starting to curl. Damn LA and its humidity.
10:30 p.m. Carter and I leave to go to the Fox party — only there’s a huge limo backlog. It takes us 30 minutes to find ours. All these long black cars look exactly the same.
11:30 p.m. Carter and I start to get hungry. We ditch the Fox party and hop in a limo with some of the other writers to In-N-Out Burger. I firmly believe nothing in the world tastes as good as a No. 1 from In-N-Out at 11:30 p.m.