January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

The first celebrity awards show of 1999 may not be the year’s most glamorous. But the most lovey-dovey? You bet. The People’s Choice Awards, which celebrated its silver anniversary at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Jan. 10, was positively awash in adoration—from the pack of ecstatic fans bellowing for their favorites during the two-hour CBS telecast (“I love you, too!” responded such stars as Tim Allen, Sandra Bullock and Nathan Lane) to celebs getting swoony over each other. “Is George Clooney here?” inquired an eager Barbara Mandrell. “If I saw him, I wouldn’t be able to speak. I’m getting flushed just talking about him.” (Sorry, Barbara, he didn’t show.)

There was requited infatuation as well. Clooney’s ER scrubmate, a beaming Alex Kingston, hung on the arm of her new hubby, writer Florian Haertel; James Woods and his date, starlet Natasha Gregson Wagner, gave the term “main squeeze” a literal interpretation; and Jesse’s Christina Applegate and boyfriend Johnathon Schaech seemed Velcroed to each other. Double-winner Titanic director James Cameron, whose marriage to Linda Hamilton hit an iceberg last year, even let his blonde gal-pal actress Suzy Amis hold one of his awards (as weighty as “two Oscars and a Golden Globe,” Cameron told host Ray Romano).

The hefty glass figurine is especially prized because it comes from average Janes and Joes via a Gallup poll. “I just bought a new home, and I don’t own a single piece of furniture,” confessed Will & Grace star Debra Messing, whose show tied for Favorite New Television Comedy Series with another NBC nominee, Jesse. “I think that we will design the house around the award.”

With the booty distributed, a thousand partygoers retreated to the Beverly Hilton Hotel to nosh on shrimp, quesadillas and cheesecake and to show off their threads. Because People’s Choice fashion stakes are relatively low, basic black reigned (Helen Hunt, LeAnn Rimes, Brooke Shields), and designs stayed simple. The show was “a palate cleanser before the showdown to the Golden Globes and the Oscars,” says designer Randolph Duke. The mood was so laid-back, Favorite Male Musical Performer Garth Brooks showed up in a mismatched tuxedo. “Yeah, I got the wrong pants on,” he said, shrugging. Meanwhile, ER’s Kellie Martin had good reason to customize her white satin gown by Richard Tyler. “I asked them to make the slit higher, she said. “I’m feeling a little frisky.”

Sophfronia Scott Gregory

Steven Cojocaru and Julie Jordan in Pasadena

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