A Glitzy Night of Offbeat Channeling Conjures Up a Starry, Cable-Ready Crowd

updated 01/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

While the cable-television industry can't outmuscle the network giants in numbers of viewers, it is way ahead in brash self-congratulation. At last week's 11th ACE Awards ceremony, honoring the best in cable programming, there were no fewer than 338 nominees in 82 categories.

Mercifully 56 of the awards had been handed out ahead of time, but dispensing the remaining trophies at Los Angeles's Wiltern Theatre kept hosts Dinah Shore, Paul Reiser, Joe Namath and Julie Brown smiling, introducing and glad-handing into the night. The colorful diversity of non-network programming was reflected in the guest list: from talk show ranter John McLaughlin and boxing promoter Don King to itty-bitty sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and actor Charlton Heston. Other cable fans in attendance included John Lithgow, Blair Brown and Shelley Duvall.

Following the awards, 1,700 guests hightailed it to a party tent set up in the parking lot for a much-needed station break of pasta, roast chicken and grilled shrimp. "Some people get hungry for power," said Garry Shandling, whose It's Garry Shandling's Show won the award for Best Comedy Series. "Whenever I win, I get hungry for food. And I'm hungry. Very, very hungry."

Despite the festivity, the glitzy black-tie affair wasn't all air kisses and "You were brilliant, darling." Panama-born Rubén Blades, a Best Actor winner for his performance in HBO's feature movie Dead Man Out, waxed gloomy, predicting that the situation in his native country "will get worse before it gets better." That was too much seriousness for Bill Maher, voted best performer in a comedy special for HBO's One Night Stand. "Why is it all these drug kingpins have such bad skin?" he demanded. "If we could just clear up the acne problem, we could probably clear up the drug problem."

Oh, all right, so everybody's a commentator—which comes as no surprise to one old pro at that game. "According to a recent Rand Corporation study," sighed Dick Cavett, "by 1993 everyone in America will have their own talk show." Leading, no doubt, to their very own Talk Show Awards.

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