- by Kurt Loder
The "red carpet" portions of an elaborate live broadcast like the Video Music Awards the pre-show hello-ing and post-show goodbye-ing of all the milling artists, stars and simple celebrities on hand must look fairly hectic on the home screen. In fact, the entire enterprise totters constantly on the cusp of chaos.
The on-camera "hosts" or "greeters" or whatever we want to call ourselves ("referees"? "peacekeepers"?) must deal, over the course of several hours, with a number of naturally incompatible elements. First, there's the celebrated person with whom one is supposed to be having a quick, breezy on-air conversation. These people can be sweethearts or they can be total troglodytes (just like the folks one meets in "real life"), and so can the handlers who inevitably skitter about them like disapproving dust bunnies. I remember, long ago, doing a live, post-show interview with the guys in Aerosmith, when one of their functionaries, monitoring our encounter just off-camera, suddenly erupted into an out-of-the-blue rant. The interview was over, he shouted. Over! Over! As staffers struggled to prevent this character from storming into our shot, I terminated our little talk and watched as they all scampered away into the night. Was it something I said? Probably.
Throughout any such on-air disaster, one must also deal with the IFB ("interruptible fold back" ask your local A/V geek). These are the little earpieces which allow the wearer to hear both what's being heard by the viewers at home, in real-time, and also whatever the producers of the show, ensconced watchfully in a faraway control room, want to break in and tell you at any given moment. Thus, during the by-now well-known incident in which a wasted Courtney Love bum-rushed an on-air interview we were doing with Madonna, and Madonna's publicist started hissing that under no circumstances should Love be allowed to elbow her way in, a producer was chortling into my ear that in the interests of "good TV" that was exactly what we did have to do. The rest is oft-rerun history.
Then there are the crowds the sea of thousands who slosh and gurgle all around whatever little stage or barely elevated dais one happens to be standing on with one's IFB and interviewee, attempting to do one's little job. The crowds are always full of surprises. And while MTV employs tons of security for the VMAs (literally: you should see the size of these guys), even the most keen-eyed watcher can't see everything, and occasionally the odd goofball slips through. One year we were talking to Beck on the marquee up above the entrance to Radio City Music Hall. We'd positioned him on a low stone railing (not a brilliant idea to begin with, maybe), from which he could look to his left and contemplate the long drop down to the granite pavement along Sixth Avenue. Midway through this interview we suddenly realized there was a man sitting next to Beck, right on this railing. At first we thought he might have been one of Beck's "people" (although Beck's not really a "people"-having kind of guy). When this person threw an arm over Beck's shoulder, and Beck registered utter puzzlement, it finally dawned on us that something was very wrong, and security was at last called in to lead the guy away. (Down to the basement interrogation cells for a night of harsh and sweaty explanation, I like to think, although that probably didn't happen.)
But you never know what is going to happen at a big, live-TV event, and no doubt this year's VMAs, at New York's Metropolitan Opera House on September 6, will come festooned with an array of surprises and on-air horrors all its own. Until then, we've rounded up a bunch of pre- and post-show moments from the past involving everybody from Madonna and Britney to Lil' Kim, Eminem, Destiny's Child, Kid Rock, Nelly, you name 'em. It's the Video Music Awards edition of The Best of the Red Carpet, and you should check it out.