HOLLYWOOD — There are press conferences, and then there are press conferences. The difference between the two is a lot greater than just some lousy italics.
Take, for example, the VMA presser that took place Thursday (September 4) on the Paramount Studios backlot. At first, it seemed to be another media gathering, complete with the usual sights (spazzy reporters, grumpy camera guys, a dude dressed up like a ninja who asked stupid questions in a faux-gruff tone) and sounds (plenty of ear-shattering microphone feedback, people complaining about the heat).
But as soon as things got rolling, it became clear that this was no ordinary press call: This was the 2008 Video Music Awards press conference, and it was an italicized event, for sure.
Right out of the gate, VMA host Russell Brand — looking resplendent in a black vest and super-tight trousers — made sure of that, welcoming the media to what he promised to be a "bloody exciting" event, and got his P.T. Barnum on, touting some of the big things show producers have planned for this Sunday, including a performance by "God's favorite virgins, the Jonas Brothers," which he proclaimed to be so excellent that "it will make the concept of an afterlife seem tame by comparison."
As he continued with the hyperbole, a lengthy black limousine suddenly appeared on the scene, and out of it stepped none other than Christina Aguilera — looking svelte in some majorly high heels — who slinked to the microphone and purred that on show night, she'll be performing her brand-new single, "Keeps Getting Better," which is also the name of a best-of album she's releasing in November.
"You're going to get a first look and a first listen at my new image and my new sound," she said. "The last album, the style and sound was about vintage glam — this one is all about the future."
Aguilera then joked that this would be the first time her son Max, born in January, would be able to watch her perform on TV, to which Brand — still in full-on hype mode — shouted, "The VMAs are going to be so great that Christina Aguilera is willing to risk her newborn baby's sight!"
While Brand was still shouting, a second surprise guest made his presence known. Appearing on a fire escape adjacent to the conference — we were in the "New York City" backlot, BTW — T.I. grabbed the microphone and announced that he was coming down to make a special announcement of his own.
After descending on a rickety metal ladder — at one point, his microphone tumbled out of his back pocket and landed on the street below — the rapper strode up next to Brand and Aguilera, posed for some photos and then broke the news that he, too, would be debuting a new song (from his forthcoming LP, Paper Trail) on the big show, this one a duet with none other than Rihanna.
"The people can expect action-packed pandemonium from top to bottom," he said, before turning to Brand and adding, "Those are some impressive pants you've got there. Are they denim? I thought they were spray-on aerosol."
Aguilera and T.I. then departed, leaving Brand to make even more VMA announcements, including news that in the first 30 minutes of the show, fans can expect appearances by Britney Spears, Rihanna, Pete Wentz, and performances by the Jonas Brothers (to be introduced by Taylor Swift), Rihanna and Katy Perry, who will apparently be trying her hand at replicating Madonna's iconic "Like a Virgin" performance from the first-ever VMAs.
And then, just when everyone thought the festivities were over, Brand grabbed a megaphone and led the throngs of reporters on an impromptu tour of the Paramount lot, ending at a massive soundstage, where — surprise! — Kid Rock was rehearsing his VMA performance.
So inside the stage we went, to watch Rock rip through "All Summer Long" (while wearing white slippers), and then announce one last — thoroughly huge — bit of news: that he'll be sharing the stage with none other than Lil Wayne.
And with that, it was over. This was certainly an italicized event ... as if the VMAs would do it any other way.