NEW YORK — One of the most touching moments of the 45th annual Grammy Awards wasn't televised Sunday night.
As the Album of the Year award brought the evening to a close, nominees Eminem and Bruce Springsteen stood backstage at Madison Square Garden, watching a monitor as their names were announced. When Norah Jones was declared the winner, completing her Grammy sweep, Em's head sank. The Boss, noticing, simply put his arm over Shady's shoulder, and the two walked off together into the shadows.
Earlier in the day, Eminem was nowhere to be found during rehearsal. But his backup band, the Roots, had plenty of people to fill-in while they pounded away on "Lose Yourself."
"Snap back to reality/ Oh, there goes gravity," one of the bandmembers rhymed in front of handful of spectators. Watching a couple of 'NSYNC members backstage, however, it was obvious the Philadelphia collective wasn't using the best possible stand-in.
"Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked/ He's so mad, but he won't/ Give up that easy/ No, he won't have it," an enthralled Chris Kirkpatrick rapped along. Joey Fatone, meanwhile, took a break from his cell phone conversation to play backup dancer, stomping his feet up and down like a Greek fraternity stepper and bouncing his hands up and down like Snoop Dogg in the video for "Gin and Juice."
Earlier in the afternoon, Nelly, draped in his usual Vokal sweat suit, was sprinkling his pimp juice on the MSG stage, practicing with Kelly Rowland. "Whoooo! Now that's the Queen," Nelly yelled with approval as Kelly did some fervent ad-libs of her chorus to "Dilemma."
Meanwhile, the show's organizers and the Garden crew were getting ready — vacuuming carpet, moving equipment. The NYPD let the dogs out (the bomb-sniffing dogs) to make sure everything was safe, and the stars were very incognito as they walked in and out for last-minute preparations, narrowly missing each other. Avril Lavigne exited, camouflage book bag in tow, moments before a gray-bearded Robin Williams arrived. Blues legend B.B. King entered just seconds after Eve bolted for her hotel.
During the red carpet arrivals, the stars not only saw each other, they often arrived together. "Christian, hold up one second. Fred doesn't have his credential," a huge Asian bodyguard with fire engine red hair told Christian Slater before the actor could jump on an elevator without his apparent new best friend, Fred Durst. (Click to see photos from the red carpet.)
Rod Stewart took the opportunity to ride the empty elevator up to the celebrity and press entrance, but not before snickering to his entourage about his red carpet experience. "That was the most horrible 20 minutes," he laughed before getting in.
There was no laughing later on when Hot Rod and company ran into B.B. King's crew. "Hold up, hold up, I'm old," one of King's friends said to Stewart's overzealous talent wrangler, who was practically pushing the elderly man.
Stewart, who was a few feet away behind a black curtain, was unaware of the situation. "I have a group coming through," the talent wrangler told the man.
"That don't have nothing to do with me. You have to wait," the senior citizen defiantly rebutted.
Closer to show time, a hole was practically being worn in the red carpet from all the people walking on it, but the press gauntlet was too much for TLC's T-Boz. "My feet are killing me," she said once she got inside, sitting down in a waiting area for her publicist. She never made it as far as her seat, leaving before the show even started.
Maybe the platinum singer was on to something, because right before show time there was a logjam of stars as everybody tried to make it to their seats at once. Pink, P. Diddy, Usher and his date, Chilli, and Harvey Fierstein, dressed in full drag, all had to wait before they could go inside.
When the show finally commenced, traffic backstage in the media center was busier than goings on in the main arena. "I feel great," Tony Bennett told a room full of reporters. "I have 11 Grammys. Outside of [losing to the soundtrack to 'The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland'], I've won every time [I've been nominated]. I'm still mad at Elmo."
Usher tried to play like he was mad at Chilli, but he was obviously enjoying her frisky displays of affection as they walked from media outlet to outlet. "Stop it, stop it," he kept giggling as she pinched his butt every few feet. "Stop iiiiit," he continued to chuckle until they made their destination.
Usher wasn't the only singer the petite ATL songstress showed love to. She gave hugs to Kelly and Ashanti, who were also making their rounds with the press. "Congratulations, girl," Chilli told Ashanti, who won Best Contemporary R&B Album during the pre-telecast.
"I love you," Ashanti responded.
Unfortunately for silver-screen funnyman Chevy Chase, it looked like "I love you" wasn't what he was going to be hearing when he got home that night. "Who won, who won?" Chase asked a handful of cheering onlookers watching a backstage monitor.
"Nobody won. Eminem just performed," a woman informed him, much to his dismay.
"Oh, I missed it," he said, nervously twitching and putting his hands on head. "My daughter's gonna kill me!"
Too bad Chevy didn't attend the P. Diddy after-hours Grammy party at Lot 61. His daughter would have been asleep or off to school by the time he got home. "I don't think y'all understand," Diddy told his partygoers, who included Jay-Z, Damon Dash, Queen Latifah, Durst, Slater, Jack Osbourne, "Antwone Fisher" co-star Joy Bryant and several Bad Boy artists. "This is one of those parties where you don't wake up the next day, you wake up the next evening at 7 p.m. and go eat dinner. We gonna do this 'til 8 a.m."
Other bashes thrown around Manhattan Sunday night included joint ventures between Common and Erykah Badu as well as Nelly and Justin Timberlake. Fat Joe and the Neptunes also held star-studded fiestas.
For more Grammy news, check out the MTV News Grammy Archive.