By the time Dixie Chick Martie Seidel took the stage to claim the band's third and final award at the 36th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Los Angeles on May 9, she was one beat bird. With fellow Chick Natalie Maines nesting at home with actor husband Adrian Pasdar and their infant son Jackson Slade and Seidel's sister and bandmate Emily Robison taking time off with country-star husband Charlie to try to make a baby of their own, Seidel had to gather all the trophies (including the one for entertainer of the year) alone. "It's so hard to be here by myself," she mock-moaned. But Seidel let it be known that Maines, who had telephoned backstage to offer congratulations, knew the real meaning of one of country music's biggest nights. "She said, 'Your dress is cute,' " Seidel revealed. "That was the first thing she said."

Other gussied-up guests included 13-year-old singer Billy Gilman, in taffeta trousers from the clothier Lords, and comedian Cledus T. Judd, sporting a red smoking jacket he wryly credited to "Salvation Armani." And for once, slit skirts, bare midriffs and décolletage made more than just fashion sense, given temperatures in the upper 80s that withered arrivals on the red carpet at the Universal Amphitheatre. Still, there were worries. Said presenter Bryan White, whose soap-star wife, Erika Page of One Life to Live, wore a down-to-there Gerri Gerard confection: "I'm hoping she's not going to fall out. We didn't bring the Scotch tape."