LOS ANGELES, Jan. 17, 2006 — -- The Golden Globes might not be Hollywood's most important awards show, but no one doubts that it's Hollywood's biggest party -- and nowhere is that more apparent than backstage.
Unlike other award shows, the stars get to sit at tables where they can drink. And there are ample opportunities to raise a glass. The Globes honor both TV and film, and, in most categories, there are separate prizes for dramas, so that comedies and musicals -- often ignored by Oscar voters -- are never shut out.
George Clooney, who won the first award of the evening, made no secret of the revelry when he came to the podium to accept honors as best supporting actor in a drama for his work in "Syriana."
"This is early," Clooney told the audience. "I haven't had a drink yet."
Once they win, stars greet the media backstage, even while other awards are being handed out. But reporters were unsure if Clooney would make an early appearance because he was also up for writing and directing honors for "Good Night, and Good Luck."
But only minutes later, Clooney was amiable and charming, no matter what question was put to him, even when asked if he'd consider starring with Heath Ledger if there were to be a sequel to "Brokeback Mountain."
"Heath is awfully handsome, so probably," Clooney responded.
Clooney is often outspoken on political matters and made an off-color joke onstage about disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he said "Syriana" should not be taken as an indictment of President Bush's Middle East policies. When a foreign reporter asked if the president should be impeached, he even grew a bit uneasy.
"I don't really think it's the spot to talk about that kind of issue," Clooney said. "This [film] wasn't an attack on the Bush administration. This was an attack of 60 years of failed policies in the Middle East."
The evening's festivities seemed decidedly political when the next big winner was Rachel Weisz, who won best supporting actress in a drama for her work in "The Constant Gardener." In the film, she plays a humanitarian worker whose husband is drawn into a murder investigation tied to international espionage.
But Weisz lightened things up, talking about her pregnancy. She joked about bumping into Gwyneth Paltrow in the ladies room and comparing belly sizes. "She's a little ahead of me," she said.
A hyperventilating Sandra Oh of "Grey's Anatomy" could hardly contain herself after winning the prize as TV's best supporting actress. "I feel like someone set me on fire!" the bubbly star said onstage. She was just as bubbly backstage. "I'm so elated, I'm shaking," she told reporters.
When asked about how her "Grey's Anatomy" character -- the decidedly cynical Dr. Cristina Yang -- would react to winning an award, Oh noted that it would be another story.
"Cristina wouldn't show up," she said, "but would gloat about it later."
As a TV president on "Commander in Chief," Geena Davis has had some practice at the bully pulpit, and she got off one of the best lines of the evening after winning best actress in a TV drama.
"As I was coming in I felt a little tug at my skirt and I looked and there was a little girl maybe 8 or 10 in her first party dress, and she said, 'Because of you I want to be president someday,'" Davis said, as if making a stump speech.
"And ... well ... that didn't actually happen," she quickly added, "Oh, but it could have …"
Davis will have her speechmaking put to the test this week. She said she's shooting her State of the Union address on Tuesday.
In an odd case of Karmic timing, Davis was followed backstage by "House, M.D." star Hugh Laurie, who won best actor in a drama series. In two "Stuart Little" movies, Davis and Laurie have played parents of a talking mouse, and the irony didn't escape them.
"Mr. and Mrs. Little have won tonight!" Laurie shouted with glee, and Davis hugged him and said she'd call the child.
As Dr. Gregory House, Laurie plays a much different character than his on-screen wife, but he defended the good doctor's acerbic nature. "He's no boy scout," Laurie said, "but there are very many things about him that make me delighted."
Queen Latifah didn't win anything, but delighted the press with her positive energy. Following the victory of "Commander in Chief," Latifah was asked which woman she'd like to see as the first female president.
"I'll run. Damn it, I'll take that job," she said, before throwing her support behind a more viable candidate. "Maybe Oprah … she'd be cool."
Dripping with mock self-importance, Steve Carell marched up to the backstage microphone clutching his trophy for best actor in a TV comedy and said, "Next question!" before the first question was asked.
Carell couldn't be much hotter. After years of steady success as one of John Stewart's reporters on "The Daily Show," he co-wrote and starred in the smash hit, "The 40 Year Old Virgin," and this year, he successfully launched an American version of the British TV hit, "The Office."
When a Canadian reporter attempted to ask a question, Carell offered an apology. "Sorry, we don't take questions from Canada," and then answered the question, saying he thought Jason Lee would win the trophy he eventually earned for "My Name Is Earl."
Carell's diva show ended abruptly when the power was lost for a good 10 minutes. But we were back in business and ready to greet one of the true belles of the ball, Reese Witherspoon, who seemed as if she dressed in gold to match the award she was destined to win.
"My husband just hit me so hard I almost fell over." Reese Witherspoon said from the podium, after being honored for her performance as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line."
Witherspoon and co-star Joaquin Phoenix, who also won, had no singing experience, yet they performed all their musical numbers in "Walk the Line," the story of music legend Johnny Cash.
Witherspoon offered some explanation as to why her husband, actor Ryan Phillippe, got so exuberant. They'd spent a good part of the evening being entertained by Shirley MacLaine, who she called "a riot" and her husband's "new best friend."
If you think the Globe is going to go to her head, Witherspoon was quick to share with the press that on Tuesday she'll be changing diapers and carpooling her daughter to gymnastics.
The most nervous winner of the night was Jonathan Rhys Myers, who took home best performance by an actor in a miniseries for his work in "Elvis." The more time he spent talking to the press, the more his feet would move. He was sweating so much, reporters joked about tossing him a life vest out of fear he would drown.
Myers is currently starring in "Match Point" with Scarlett Johannson. The Woody Allen film features some steamy love scenes in which Myers says he's trying to be "animalistic and a gentleman at the same time … It's a fine line."
In a strange study of opposites, S. Epatha Merkerson, who won for her performance as a boardinghouse operator in the miniseries "Lackawanna Blues," joked about Botox and cosmetic surgery.
"I did my breasts, I won't do my face," she said. "Well, I'm 53. At this point if I don't tell the truth, you know [expletive deleted] it. But that's the truth.
"I'll never do anything to my face, I might have a tummy tuck, but so it's just breast reduction," she said. "Aren't they cute?"
But Merkerson quickly turned emotional when asked of the significance of the Globes being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "Y'all made me cry," she said, "and I'm trying to be cute."
Mary-Louise Parker might have been the biggest surprise winner of the evening, and took most of her time backstage trying to explain how she managed to beat out four stars of "Desperate Housewives" to win best actress in a TV musical or comedy series.
Parker plays a suburban mom who suddenly loses her spouse and turns to selling marijuana to make ends meet on "Weeds." She said she had no prepared speech and expected Felicity Huffman to win.
"I thought we were all kind of desperate housewives," she said. "Mine was just a little more desperate than theirs."
If there was a star among stars backstage, it was Anthony Hopkins, who was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. But he quickly dropped any pretensions. Asked if he prefers to be called "Sir Anthony Hopkins," he simply said, "No."
And when asked who he thought was the best dressed of the night, he deadpanned, "I am."
One of the biggest winners of the evening, "Brokeback Mountain" director Ang Lee, reiterated that he nearly gave up filmmaking after his last film, "The Hulk." With a $12.5 million budget, "Brokeback Mountain" was made for nearly one-10th the price, and Lee calls the film, "salvation for me."
It was unclear if the notoriously shy Phoenix would even come backstage, having many times expressed his disdain for the press, but he seemed genuinely moved by his victory. It's surreal … It's wild," he said. "Honestly, it means more to me than I think I imagined."
Phoenix said that he bet Phillippe $220 that he wouldn't win, and when he was called to the stage, Phillippe followed him until he forked over the money.
When the cast of "Lost" finally made it backstage, they congregated around a single microphone, and swore to answer no questions about where the plot of their show was heading. Evangeline Lilly said that even some celebrities -- including Clooney -- had been asking for clues. She said Zach Braff described himself earlier in the evening as a "geek fan."
The cast of "Desperate Housewives" were the last to make a backstage appearance, long after the room started to clear out. "Felicity was up for an award and we all had to run back and support her," show creator Mark Cherry explained.
But at that point, only seven reporters were left, prompting Teri Hatcher to say, "There is just something so incredibly pathetic about this."
Cherry said each member of the cast and crew would get a chance to pose for a picture with the award the show won for best TV comedy or musical. "And I have mine from last year," Hatcher said, "so I'm cool."
ABC Radio's David Alpert and Michelle Ruiz in Los Angeles and ABCNEWS.com's Buck Wolf in New York contributed to this report.