The word among soap insiders was that, at last, this was going to be the year for Lucci, who embodies All My Children's Erica Kane. The fact that she was hosting the awards show (a role she has not played for many years), further indicated she was a virtual lock. Still the actress smiled convincingly as she closed the festivities, perhaps thinking of the annual media blitz that will ensue ("Lucci Robbed Again!")
Actress Jess Walton of The Young and The Restless walked away with her second Emmy for Lead Actress and Justin Deas took Lead Actor for Guiding Light. Overall, The Young and the Restless was the big winner, securing four trophies, with Guiding Light and General Hospital--the night's only other multiple winners--each receiving two.
Lucci's loss was far from the only surprise of the evening. Second-time nominee Michelle Stafford (currently on the prime-time Pacific Palisades) opened the show with a bang, snagging her first Emmy for Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Phyllis on The Young and the Restless, while it had been widely speculated that All My Children's Eva LaRue Callahan was a shoo-in.
Stafford herself seemed completely caught off guard as she took the stage, brimming with tears. "There's no 'best' tonight," she said. "I just got lucky."
Guiding Light's Kevin Mambo picked up his second consecutive Younger Actor prize, beating out the favored Steve Burton of General Hospital.
Other awards were more predictable. The Oprah Winfrey Show secured Outstanding Talk Show for the fourth time in a row, and General Hospital received its third consecutive Outstanding Drama Series award.
A tearful Rosie O'Donnell shared a deep embrace with Oprah when the first-time nominee won in the talk show host category. In between the two standing ovations she received, she reflected how her mother used to take her and her sister to Radio City, where they would, "sit on the fourth balcony and eat lemon drops."
Perhaps most moving was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Fred Rogers for the many years he has brought joy and education to children on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. "Thank you," he said, "for all these years for allowing me to be your neighbor."