Of course, everybody did not win.
A few minutes earlier, a server had brought a round of beers over to a table where the staff of Vice was sitting. They took sips as the finalists were announced in the penultimate category of general excellence for general-interest magazines, letting out a hearty cheer as their title, an unlikely first-time nominee, was rattled off.
But the celebration was short-lived: The award went to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Upon receiving one of the so-called "Ellie" statues that are the magazine industry's highest award, Josh Tyrangiel, Businessweek's editor, reminded the hundreds in attendance just how far the drastically revamped magazine had come since his name landed on the top of its masthead in 2009.
- At Ebertfest, where no one mutters about the color of your ticket and the 'Times' doesn't rule
- New York sports: The unthinkable collapse of Mariano Rivera
- Juan Williams misses NPR; Ben Smith competes with Taco Bell Health Channel
"Two-and-a-half years ago, this magazine was basically a death story," he said, thanking New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and several other top executives from the mayor's eponymous media company, for swooping in and bringing it back to life.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Tyrangiel's remarks were that they were happening before 10 p.m.
A year earlier, the 2011 Ellies ceremony infamously dragged on until around midnight, and the room felt a little comatose by the end.
So the awards' organizers, the American Society of Magazine Editors and Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, had promised attendees that this year's proceedings would stay on schedule, with a 60-second cap on acceptance speeches and instructions to emcee Brian Williams to keep things moving along.
"If you're gonna thank people, just thank a few of them," the NBC News anchor pleaded. (His sarcastic rejoinders turned out to be one of the highlights of the event.)
The National Magazine Awards are a civilized affair, dominated by the decorum of the city's most august magazines. So while it was a bit disappointing not to see what the kids from Vice might have done on stage for an awards speech, there was one welcome break when Tim Rogers, the editor of Dallas's local D Magazine, darted up to the podium to accept the award for profile writing, a category in which the monthly had bested industry darlings Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and ESPN.
Rogers, who from afar looked a little like the actor Jason Lee, forewent the usual thank-yous in favor of a rambling discourse on how magazine writers only do it to get laid, and something about how 16 years ago, he had proposed to his wife, who was sitting at D Magazine's table near the back.
"Tonight, with a little bit of luck, a little bit of red wine, and this award, I'm gonna get lucky," he said, getting to the point. (UPDATE: He later wrote a blog post about what he meant for his speech to be.)
There were some other moments, albeit not quite as memorable, that also broke-up the monotony. Earlier, New Yorker editor David Remnick had revealed his familiarity with the canon of late R&B singer Aaliyah by evoking one of her hit songs while accepting an Ellie on behalf of young, twenty-something reporter Sarah Stillman, whose June 2011 piece about foreign workers who staff American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan won for public interest.
"Age ain't nothin' but a number," said Remnick.
(The fact that Stillman is a woman may have served to temper some of the criticism that clouded this year's predominantly male crop of finalists.)
The New Yorker, a perennial Ellies champ, snagged the award for reporting, too. New York editor Adam Moss, meanwhile, now has three more Ellies to add to his vast collection.
Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter paid tribute to the late Christopher Hitchens, whose trio of columns gave the magazine a win for commentary.
"Christopher Hitchens was not just a brilliant journalist and thinker. He really was the beau idéal of the public intellectual," said Carter, adapting some of the remarks he'd given at a memorial service for Hitchens a few weeks earlier. "He was also one of the bravest men I have ever known. ... I know I will not see someone like him for a long time."
Terry McDonnell, editor of Sports Illustrated (and former editor of every other magazine that has ever existed), was humble and eloquent when he spoke regarding his induction into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame.
Looking stockier and grayer than he did in the video montage that had played before his speech, McDonnell said: "I think that being an editor right now is the most interesting time to be an editor because of all the possibilities that are coming. When the challenge is basically, 'change, or go home,' my response to that is, no fear. Bring it.
"I really like this work. I really like your work," he continued. "I like how it's fluid, and I like how it's nuanced, and I like how it's ironic, and I like how it has so much craft in it, and it has its own tides, it's own seasons, and it has bogeymen, and maybe it even has magic sometimes when it all comes together. ... I think all of you know all of that, and you like that, too. And that's why I think you all understand how very very much this honor, and that's the right word, means to me. And I like that most of all."
You can view the full list of this year's National Magazine Award winners below.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described D Magazine editor Tim Rogers as tall, but apparently my eyesight was not at its best last night: His colleagues in Dallas know better.
MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR
Honors the achievement of editorial excellence both in print and on digital platforms
Rick Stengel, Managing Editor
Catherine Sharick, Managing Editor, TIME.com May 20, October 17 and December 26/January 2, 2012, Print Issues
Weekly iPad App
GENERAL EXCELLENCE - Active- and Special Interest Magazines
Honors magazines serving targeted readerships
Jane Berentson, Editor
February, November and December 2011/January 2012 Issues
GENERAL EXCELLENCE - General-Interest Magazines
Honors large-circulation weeklies, biweeklies and general-interest monthlies
Josh Tyrangiel, Editor
October 10-16, October 31-November 6 and November 14-20 Issues
GENERAL EXCELLENCE - Lifestyle Magazines
Honors city and regional publications as well as food, travel and shelter magazines
Newell Turner, Editor in Chief
March, June and July/August Issues
GENERAL EXCELLENCE - Thought-Leader Magazines
Honors small-circulation general-interest magazines as well as literary, scholarly and professional publications
Susan Hassler, Editor in Chief
September, October and November Issues
GENERAL EXCELLENCE - Women’s Magazines
Honors health, fitness and parenting publications as well as fashion, service and lifestyle magazines
O, The Oprah Magazine
Oprah Winfrey, Founder and Editorial Director
Susan Casey, Editor in Chief
April, May and November Issues
COLUMNS AND COMMENTARY
Honors political and social commentary; news analysis; and reviews and criticism
Graydon Carter, Editor
Three columns by Christopher Hitchens, Contributing Editor: “When the King Saved God,” May; “Unspoken Truths,” June; and “From Abbottobad to Worse,” July
Honors overall excellence in magazine design
Jim Nelson, Editor in Chief
Fred Woodward, Design Director
May, August and October Issues
ESSAYS AND CRITICISM
Honors long-form journalism on topics ranging from the personal to the political
Adam Moss, Editor in Chief
“Paper Tigers,” by Wesley Yang, Contributing Editor
Honors the use of original photography in a feature story, photo essay or photo portfolio
The New York Times Magazine
Hugo Lindgren, Editor in Chief
“Vamps, Crooks & Killers,” photographs by Alex Prager; introduction by A.O. Scott
Honors original, stylish storytelling
David Granger, Editor in Chief
“Joplin!” by Luke Dittrich, Contributing Editor
Honors the publication of fiction in magazines
Michael Ray, Editor
“The Hox River Window,” by Karen Russell
Honors coverage of fashion and beauty; travel; decorating and gardening; food; fitness and active sports; cars and boats; and hobbies and crafts
James Oseland, Editor in Chief
“Italian America,” by John Mariani, Lou Di Palo, Marne Setton, Rina Oh, Greg Ferro, Jane and Michael Stern, James Oseland, Dana Bowen, Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli
Honors the editorial direction of a clearly branded front- or back-of-the-book department or section
Adam Moss, Editor in Chief
July 11, October 10 and November 28
NEWS AND DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY
Honors photojournalism and photography that documents news events or news-related subjects
Ellen Rosenbush, Editor
Stacey Clarkson, Art Director
“Juvenile Injustice,” photographs by Richard Ross
Honors coverage of health care, personal relationships, parenting, career planning and personal finance
Cynthia Leive, Editor in Chief
“The Secret That Kills Four Women a Day,” by Liz Brody, Editor at Large
Honors overall excellence in magazine photography
Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief
Grace Coddington, Creative Director
Raul Martinez, Design Director
March, October and November Issues
Honors news or feature stories about an individual or a group of closely linked individuals
Tim Rogers, Editor
“He Is Anonymous,” by Tim Rogers
Honors magazine journalism that illuminates issues of local or national importance
The New Yorker
David Remnick, Editor
“The Invisible Army,” by Sarah Stillman
Honors reporting excellence as exemplified by one article or a series of articles
The New Yorker
David Remnick, Editor
“The Apostate,” by Lawrence Wright
February 14 & 21
Honors magazines that have devoted an issue to the comprehensive examination of one subject
Adam Moss, Editor in Chief “The Encyclopedia of 9/11” September 5-12