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Behind the Scenes at the VMAs

Nearly twenty years since the timeless Buggles track, the radio
star has been officially killed. What could be a more thorough
assassin than MTV conjoined with Hollywood’s Universal City? That
was the 15th annual 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, which featured
live performances from Marilyn Manson, Hole, Madonna, the Beastie
Boys, and hosts ranging from Jackie Chan, Shaq O’Neal, Puff Daddy,
Hanson and Steven Tyler.

The big winners out front were Madonna’s “Ray of Light” for best
video, Backstreet Boys “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” for Best
Group Video, Green Day’s “Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)” for
best Alternative Video. But the real action was backstage in the
press tent.

“What do you know about punk rock?” snapped Green Day’s Billie Joe
at a journalist’s question. “I am the king of punk rock.
You sit down.” Meanwhile, Madonna, sporting a traditional Brahmin
forehead painting, couldn’t get a word in edgewise during the press
tent feeding frenzy of questions aimed at her, and left the podium
with the simple Hindu expression, “Om shanti,” Brahmin for “I am a
soul at peace.” Courtney Love, despite her predilection for Sikh
yoga, was not. When asked if she thought President Bill Clinton was
guilty of impeachable offenses, Love declared, “Stupid f—in’
question,” before castigating journalist Belissa Cohen – who is
involved in an assault lawsuit against Love — as suffering from
“lithium problems.”

Laker Shaq O’Neal, sporting a new ‘do — actual hair — had an
entirely different take on Courtney Love in the press tent too,
though he couldn’t remember her name. “That girl from Hole – the
lead singer – I’d really like to get behind her.”

For Shirley Manson of Garbage, who looked stunning in a small
burnt-orange dress, the experience was different: “The highlight
tonight was losing a multitude of awards to videos I didn’t feel
were as good as ours. I’m sure that sounds really dubious coming
from me because I’m in the band, but I think Andrea Giacobbe is in
incredibly talented director. And his video was complex and
creative and leagues above all the videos it was in competition
with. I don’t give a f— about us as a band not winning — I give
a fuck that he’s amazingly creative and wasn’t given his due. But
as I said before, I *would* say that!”

Despite Chuck D’s high praise for “punk rock white boys” the
Beastie Boys’ contributions to the “dark continent” of hip-hop, and
that band’s Video Vanguard award, and the Beastie Boys’ own
reference to U.S. racism regarding the recent bombing of the Middle
East, the true essence of the MTV Video Music Awards was summed up
by Puff Daddy in the press tent: “A little Versace, my girl
Donatella, and Calvin Klein up top,” he said, sporting a very fine
gray suit.

The highlight of the festival for Steven Tyler of Aerosmith?
“Marilyn Manson’s cod piece.”

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