In the eyes of the judges, Lucci's character, Erica Kane Martin Brent Cudahy Chandler Chandler Montgomery Montgomery Marick, the fit-throwing, husband-stealing, company-owning, Pine Valley diva with the perfect hair (not to mention flawless nails and killer accessories) was no match for Slezak's Vickie, who recently spent time in an asylum trying to rid herself of multiple personalities.
Never mind that Lucci's Erica went to the Betty Ford Clinic, after sneaking pills, lying about her pain, and showing up to family functions higher than Pine Valley's divorce rate. (The clinic reported that fans were calling and sending flower arrangements to the fictional Erica.)
This was Slezak's fifth Emmy award for the matriarchal role she has played since 1971.
In addition to Lucci, Slezak beat out Linda Dano from Another World, Jensen Buchanan from Another World and Jess Walton from The Young and The Restless.
Wearing a black chiffon gown with a over-the-shoulder red sash, Slezak said she was ``proud to be included in a list of such fine nominees.''
Lucci was in the audience, graciously smiling.
General Hospital won the Emmy for the best daytime drama, over All My Children, Days of Our Lives and The Young and The Restless.
Hosted by Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott, stars of The Young and The Restless, the daytime Emmys show was broadcast live from cavernous three-tiered Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
In a special one-hour primetime episode of The Young and the Restless that preceeded the ceremony, Braeden was shot and left splayed on the floor of his executive office, blood oozing out of his Armani.
But that was just make-believe. In real life Braeden stood on stage and moved the 23d annual event along swiftly.
The first award was for best supporting actor in a drama; it went to Jerry Ver Dorn, who has been on Guiding Light since 1979.
The best supporting actress award went to Anna Holbrook from Another World.
In the category of younger actor and younger actress, restricted to daytime thespians between 14 and 25 years old, the winners were Kevin Mambo, who plays Marcus on Guiding Light, and Kimberly McCullough, who plays the HIV-positive Robin on General Hospital.
All My Children's writing team was voted daytime drama's best.
In a surprisingly unsentimental tribute, Phil Donahue received a lifetime achievement award.
Oprah Winfrey, clad in a bronze lame pant suit, did the honors, thanking Donahue for ``opening the door wide enough for me to walk through.''
Donahue, a 29-year veteran of daytime airwaves, is credited with inventing the chairs-on-a-stage talk show format that has become the lifeblood of office-hours television.
In a brief and dry-eyed thank-you speech, the silver-haired Donahue thanked his crew, his children and his wife, Marlo Thomas.
He also alluded to recent problems with conservative TV watch-dog groups that have accused his program of being too controversial.
``To those of you in this room who continue to make creative decisions about daytime television, my wish for you is a long, long list of sponsors who refuse to be intimidated or terrorized by outside pressure groups who know what we should see.''
But Donahue, in a stunning upset, did not win for best talk show host. Neither did Oprah. Or hot newcomer Leeza Gibbons. Or perennial runners-up Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford.
The winner was Montel Williams, on his first nomination. He thanked his family.
The best talk show, though, wasn't Montel's. That honor belonged to The Oprah Winfrey Show.
There were no such controversial developments in the children's entertainment awards.
Shari Lewis, who has built an entire career around a sock puppet, took home her fifth Emmy for best performer in a children's series, Lamb Chop's Play Along.
For best preschool children's series, perennial favorite Sesame Street beat out the purple giant Barney & Friends; Jim Henson's Animal Show; Lamb Chop's Play-Along and the indestructible Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Voted best animated children's program was Animaniacs, executive produced by Steven Spielberg.
Bob Barker, host of The Price is Right, accepted the best game show award. A noted animal rights activist, Barker ended his speech by telling the audience, ``Have your pets spayed or neutered.''
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani reportedly boycotted the glitzfest because he believes daytime talk shows and sexy soap operas are too controversial.
Of course his moral standards didn't keep him from rubbing other celebrity elbows during recent Grammy and MTV award shows.
* Best Drama Series: General Hospital (ABC).
* Best Game Show: The Price Is Right.
* Lead Actress: Erika Slezak, One Life To Live. (ABC).
* Lead actor:Charles Keating, Another World (NBC).
* Supporting actress:Anna Holbrook, Another World (NBC).
* Supporting actor: Jerry Ver Dorn, Guiding Light (CBS).
* Younger actress: Kimberly McCullough, General Hospital (ABC)
* Younger actor: Kevin Mambo, Guiding Light (CBS).
* Outstanding directing team:The Young and The Restless, (CBS).
* Outstanding writing team: All My Children (ABC).
* Best talk show: The Oprah Winfrey Show (syndicated).
* Best talk show host: Montel Williams, The Montel Williams Show (syndicated).
* Best childrens series performer: Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop's Play-Along (PBS).
* Best preschool show: Sesame Street (PBS).
* Best animated show: Animaniacs (The WB).
* Best children's special: Stand Up, CBS Schoolbreak Special.