How do you move in these pants, man?" demanded Jay Leno, who donned a cowboy hat and too-tight Wranglers to present the Academy of Country Music's artist-of-the-decade award to Garth Brooks. But the funny-man's down-home garb was the exception: At the 34th annual awards ceremony, held at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheatre on May 5, Nashville went pure Hollywood. The evening's big winner, a teary Faith Hill
, sported an Oscar-worthy navy Randolph Duke gown (before her costume change into white) to collect her five Hats; hubby Tim McGraw
wore a cobalt-blue Richard Tyler tux to snap up his top-male-vocalist prize ("It's all about my wife," he said gallantly). Multiplatinum-selling singer Shania Twain, in a hooded animal-print Marc Bouwer coat, took home only one award—but didn't seem to mind. "Fm going to celebrate tonight!" she whooped.
As the evening wore on, some stars got progressively less chic. By the Dixie Chicks' third award, Natalie Maines had lost her platform shoes and Emily Erwin was pulling up her Todd Oldham skirt. But increasing dishevelment couldn't hinder the post-awards two-step: meet and greet. Badgley Mischkaclad Naomi Judd went on a mission to introduce herself to all newcomers ("I literally have a list in my purse"). Top-new-female-vocalist prizewinner Jo Dee Messina trilled, "Fm like a big fan with a backstage pass." So was Escada-wearing actress Jane Seymour, who lingered at the Capitol Records afterparty hoping that Garth Brooks would arrive. (He did, after she left.) But it was crooner Trace Adkins who was most in tune with the Hollywood vibe, "Maybe I'll meet someone here," he mused, "who will put me in a movie."
Julie K.L Dam
Julie Jordan and Ulrica Wihlborg in Los Angeles