Sheryl Crow summed up this year’s Grammy Awards as she accepted her Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy for her cover of Guns n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine”: “I want to thank Carlos Santana for not being in this category.” Santana was the grand-prize winner, with eight golden Victrolas (tying Michael Jackson’s 1983 record, for Thriller), including Best Album, Best Song and Best Spoken Word Recording Featuring the Voice of the Angel Metatron.
The Grammys are forty-two years old, and damned if they don’t feel middle-aged, especially as hosted by daytime TV’s Queen of Nice, Rosie “I Luv Macy Gray” O’Donnell. Could there be a less rocking way of presenting this show than having it in L.A.’s new Staples Center? Why, no! Even Kid Rock getting his ya-yas out couldn’t save the night, as his performance – like those of Britney Spears, Marc Anthony, Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Whitney Houston and Santana – was muffled by the arena’s lofty dome. If you were in the house, you couldn’t even hear half the speeches – a blessing in its own way.
“I just feel really, really blessed about it,” Christina Aguilera told us backstage, talking not about the sound system but about her Best New Artist Grammy. “I wasn’t expecting it. I’m such a newcomer, out of all these people.” Um … it’s an award for newcomers, Christina, but whatever. Your “Ohmigod, you guys” acceptance speech practically made the whole night worthwhile.
Ohmigod, you guys, it was an evening of a few firsts: Cher won her first Grammy, for Believe;Barry White took his first two Grammys home, for Staying Power; and Elton John performed at the ceremony for the first time. “I’m looking forward to the Backstreet Boys,” Sir Elton said backstage. “They sing their asses off.” Billy Joel presented Elton with the Legend Award and had some advice for him: “I got that thing, too. It fell off the base a few years ago. So I told him not to put it on a high shelf. It might kill someone.”
OK, on to the good stuff. Let’s belly up to the bar at Arista president Clive Davis’ annual black-tie bash, held the night before the Grammys. Why, here’s Rod Stewart and his two dates, and there’s Britney Spears getting some teen-icon knowledge from Donnie Osmond. Out on the terrace, it’s Santana’s drummer telling Steven Segal about touring with the Grateful Dead (only in L.A., kids, only in L.A.): “The Grateful Dead, man. Jerry Garcia, God bless him.”
The party took off after dinner with superb performances in Clive’s honor from Stevie Wonder, Santana (with both Everlast and Rob Thomas) and Whitney Houston. “If Jesus Christ was alive today,” said Wonder about rumors that Clive will retire this year, “would we say he was too old?” Well, he’d be about 2,000 years old, but no, we wouldn’t.
On Grammy night, the parties really got hectic. The biggest gatherings, thrown by Universal Music Group, BMG and WEA, were followed up by intimate late-night affairs for Santana at Spago and for the Backstreet Boys at a mansion in Bel-Air. At the Universal party, David Spade made the rounds and Lisa Marie Presley introduced her new fiancé, John Oszajca. Eminem showed up briefly and explained why he hadn’t actually been at the Grammys to pick up his awards for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Album. “I didn’t really want to,” he said, with the fuck-all-y’all honesty that makes him Slim Shady. “I’m not into this party, either. It’s making me uptight.”
Over at the WEA party, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Kid Rock held court on a balcony with his date, model James King, as well as Trey Anastasio of Phish, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and former G n’ R drummer Matt Sorum. “Have you seen my date?” Rock asked a friend. “She’s really hot.” “Is she a porn star?” the friend asked. “No, dude, she’s a model. I’m moving up in the world.” Right on! The Kid shared his thoughts on the show: “I’m impressed that Britney Spears came out and sang live for the first part of her performance, but then she went to fucking DAT. I can’t even sing, but I go out there and do it live.” OK, cowboy.
It wasn’t all flashbulbs and smiles. Ask the Dust Brothers, who took home a Grammy for their production work with Santana. “Our limo got carjacked,” said Brother John King. “The driver owed the bank, and it got repoed right as we were pulling out of the Staples Center.”
But better vibes prevailed at the small party thrown at Spago in Santana’s honor. Carlos slow-danced with his wife, Deborah, into the wee hours, and Rob Thomas did the same with his wife, Marisol. “Carlos is someone I’ve respected and loved since I was a kid,” said Sting (who took home two Grammys of his own). “To see him get this amount of acclaim at this stage in his career is very inspiring. I’m just glad I wasn’t in any categories he was in.” You and Sheryl both, Sting.