Onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards, you’ll see the celebs playing it calm like it’s no big deal to present an award alongside one of their peers or to look into the crowd and see a sea of people staring back. But backstage it’s a whole different story: The stars aren’t afraid to admit that they are fans.
“Move over, guys,” Chester Bennington told his Linkin Park bandmates as one of the night’s hottest acts walked past them. “Make room for Avril Lavigne, she’s a big star. We’re only a little rock band.”
“It is truly, truly a pleasure,” Busta Rhymes reiterated to Sheryl Crow after the two passed each other in a hallway and took a picture together.
On the other side of the backstage area, it was Xzibit getting a little giddy, chuckling to himself and at Johnny Knoxville and his crew of Jackasses as Foxy Brown and Russell Simmons scurried by, trying to get to the entrance that led to the house.
“I love y’all dudes, y’all some wild dudes,” X said giving dap to Knoxville, who had just walked offstage firing off his staple gun.
Nas was far from shooting off his mouth before he performed. The lyrical arsonist was oblivious to all around him, including his brother Jungle, who was giving him some pre-show advice. Nas simply went off into the darkness, standing on his stage set going into a five-minute-long meditation that was only broken when his prop started to move.
David Lee Roth did enough gabbing for everyone, chopping it up with anyone who would listen. He stopped Linkin Park and apologized for his presenting partner Sammy Hagar’s rudeness toward them onstage. Showing he was for real about digging their music, he sang a few bars of “In the End.”
As the former Van Halen singer exited, Bennington looked to his band and said, “Diamond Dave is a fan. That rules.”
Even Eminem loosened up a bit. The night’s big winner (see “Eminem Takes Home Most Moonmen From Video Music Awards” ) may have let Slim Shady come out onstage, threatening to punch Moby while accepting the Best Male Video honor, but backstage he was just plain ol’ Marshall Mathers, seemingly squashing any beef he had with another person he blasted on wax. Click here for the complete 2002 MTV VMA Winners List. Walking out of sight of the audience and cameras, Eminem was engaging in a spirited conversation with award presenter Christina Aguilera that at initial glance could have easily been construed as an argument. However, once the rapper said his peace and Christina voiced on her opinions, Em, who was nodding his head and looked to be agreeing with the singer, opened his arms just as she was about to walk away and the two actually briefly embraced.
“Now that’s an MTV moment,” exclaimed an applauding Brandy as she stood off to the side next to Darrin Dewitt Henson of the booty-shaking how-to home video “Darrin’s Dance Grooves” and the cable TV show “Soul Food.”
“I’m cool, it’s cool,” Eminem, who was immune to the boo birds he heard onstage, said seconds later to his manager Paul Rosenburg, who was offering words of encouragement.
Earlier, Aguilera sat in a dressing room along with Brandy as they both got their makeup done. Before Aguilera went out in front of the crowd at Radio City, she was more concerned with making jokes with her friend and sending messages on her 2way pager than exchanging pleasantries with Usher, who was standing at arm’s length. Usher had some fun later on with Jennifer Lopez, however.
J. Lo made it her business to give Usher a shout-out and hug as she made her way back to the house seats, walking past Jimmy Fallon and Kirsten Dunst, who kept each other amused by cracking jokes and simultaneously bopping to Nelly’s “#1″ while his nomination for Best Male Video was being announced.
After walking off to a standing ovation, no one could tell Puffy he wasn’t the best performer of the night (see “Guns N’ Roses Cap Night Of Spectacles From Diddy, Eminem, Timberlake” ).
“We did it, we killed it,” members of Diddy’s entourage, which was about as deep in numbers as an NFL team, yelled as P.D. swaggered behind the curtains, arms victoriously raised like a boxer who just levied a first-round K.O. Diddy then started bumping chests with his crew in victorious celebration.
“Muthaf—as can’t see us, son,” Busta Rhymes kept repeating with his throaty growl.
Justin Timberlake had to wait until later on in the night to celebrate his first-ever solo performance. He had to change shirts and present the Viewer’s Choice Award only a few moments after his routine.
He did receive the stamp of approval from his fellow ‘NSYNCers, who watched J.T.’s performance on a monitor. Chris Kirkpatrick played air guitar as if he were a part of the band and Joey Fatone smiled during a few spots in the set, telling his friends, “That was real cool,” as the music came to an end.
Pink was watching the monitors intently as well at the beginning of the night, saying “I knew it,” and clapping as No Doubt beat her out for Best Pop Video.
Michael Jackson, who came into the building with little fanfare, didn’t take home any awards — contrary to his speech — but he did exit with a 100-pound cake and a hug from Britney Spears, who told Jacko “bye” as he left minutes into the program.
Catch all the sizzlin’, star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News’ preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.