Gossip Girl courtesy Timothy White/CW Gossip Girl courtesy Timothy White/CW

Before I get to the highlights from last night's Gossip Girl panel at Paley Fest '08, I have a confession to make: I came a little late to the "S" and "B" party. OK, a lot late. For a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is my FauxVo's arcane inability to record more than two shows at once, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Upper East Side O.C. was not part of my TV regimen this season. I had seen the pilot, but nothing beyond that. I figured I'd eventually get caught up, I just had no idea it would take as long as it did - six months, to be exact. You see, in preparation for Saturday's Paley event, I hosted a 12-hour Gossip Girl marathon last weekend in Room 11** at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa. Twelve episodes in two days. And by the end of that 12th episode, not only had I joined the party, I was doing shots while swinging from the chandelier. Between the setting (New York has never looked better), the writing (some of the sharpest anywhere on TV), and the acting (Blake Lively and Leighton Meester have already been inducted into the Aushole of Fame), GG is my favorite kind of guilty pleasure - it's all pleasure with none of the guilt. I am so onboard.

Now, on to the main event.

Participants: The entire cast, plus author Cecily von Ziegesar, exec producers Schwartz, Savage and Bob Levy, and Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack (moderator).

In lieu of an episode : Schwartz introduced an extended clipathon of the first season so far, plus a bonus outtake reel.

Shhhhh!: Throughout the clip package, there was an inordinate amount of whispering and giggling coming from the row behind me. Turns out, the entire cast snuck in after the lights dimmed, and Chace Crawford, Penn Badgley, Meester and Lively were sitting right behind me!

They really are BFFs: Right before they were brought up on stage, I observed Meester and Lively frantically (and giddily) touching up each other's makeup. And at that precise moment, all was right in my world.

The other GG: There were a fair amount of Gilmore Girls fans in the audience. I know this because when Matthew Settle (aka Rufus, dad to Dan and Jenny) mentioned that his wife was a fan, a mini riot erupted in the mezzanine.

Hair today, gone tomorrow: True-blonde Meester wore a brown wig when she auditioned for Blair. Once it became clear that she was going to get the part, producers asked her to lose the wig and dye her mane instead.

Moving on a budget: Settle revealed that the CW gave the cast each $6K to relocate to New York, which he joked is about enough to cover the rent on a bathroom.

Class act: Kelly Rutherford shared a story about the scary lengths to which some paparazzi will go to snap pics of the cast - a story that only made me love her more. Recalling a recent incident in which a photog nearly got run over by a cab while trying to take her picture, she remembered telling him, "Please I'm the mom. [Blake]'s coming in a minute."

Good timing: Jessica Szohr landed the role of Vanessa simply by crashing a barbecue Schwartz hosted. Schwartz recalled opening his door, seeing Szohr for the first time and shouting, "It's Vanessa!" Something tells me Schwartz's next barbecue is going to be teeming with uninvited aspiring actresses.

Speaking of Vanessa : Savage noted that she's looking to "carve out more real estate" for Szohr on GG so that she's "not just part of Serena and Dan's story."

Gossip loses a girl: Blair will be down one sidekick when the show returns next month. Schwartz revealed that Nan Zhang (Kati) enrolled at Brown University during the strike - and didn't even bother to tell anyone at the show! As a result, Nicole Fiscella (Isabel) will lead Blair's minion march alone.

Animal antics: There was lots of discussion about how in the Gossip Girl books, Chuck was gay and had a pet monkey. Said discussion ended with someone on the panel (I forget who) concluding that the "monkey turned him gay."

She's obsessed!: Serena and Vanessa's Guitar Hero showdown earlier this season was supposed to have a different outcome. In the original script, Vanessa prevailed. However, Lively - a hardcore Guitar Hero competitor in real life - pleaded with Savage/Schwartz to let Serena win.

Diversity rocks!: When asked about the lack of gay characters on the show ( tee-hee), Chrismukkah-lovin' Schwartz pointed out that the question he's asked most is, "Where are the Jews?"

Oh no he din't: Meester lamented that the best part of Serena and Blair's wardrobe is also the part viewers rarely get to see: their shoes. That prompted this hilariously off-color remark from Badgley: "So, we should be lifting more legs then?" Some jokes are so wrong they're right. That was one of those jokes.

Spoiler alert: Schwartz/Savage teased that this season's final five episodes will build toward a wedding - but not necessarily the one we're expecting (i.e., Lily and Bart).

Not gonna happen: On whether or not narrator Kristen Bell will ever turn up in the flesh as Gossip Girl, Savage reminded everyone that "she's not who Gossip Girl is. Gossip Girl is a state of mind." Can't we see her anyway?! Please?!

Check our Paley Video Hub later today for my red-carpet interviews with the Gossip Girl cast!