NEW YORK — In Times Square on Thursday afternoon (September 10), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gathered with celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore for a press conference to kick off a public-service initiative called "I Participate," which seeks to engage people in volunteer efforts in this city and many others.
It was a day when heavyweights in politics and entertainment came together, and when our own Sway Calloway crossed paths with the mayor, talk turned to a pop-culture event set to rock the city he governs: the MTV Video Music Awards.
"This is the crossroads of the world, and this is where everybody comes for the greatest music," declared the mayor, who is up for re-election this November. "You have my blessings."
In 2006, the last time the show took place in New York, Bloomberg told MTV News that he was pulling for Shakira, and on Thursday he said he was proud that the songstress took home a Moonman that year.
"These hips don't lie!" the mayor joked, showing that he's keenly aware of Shakira's hit single.
So, who does Bloomberg like this year? Lady Gaga and Beyoncé have each garnered nine nominations and will face off in categories like Video of the Year and Best Female Video.
"I'm betting on you!" he told Sway. "Absolutely. I think you and Lady Gaga — the big stars. [She's] an NYU graduate." (Actually, Mr. Mayor, Gaga dropped out of NYU to devote herself to the music scene.)
Shakira, Lady Gaga — our hats off to the mayor for knowing his stuff. He also happens to hang out with top recording artists from time to time, like Alicia Keys, who will perform with Jay-Z at this year's VMAs.
"I sat next to Alicia Keys at dinner two weeks ago," he said. "My girlfriend was very jealous, I can tell you that. I don't think her boyfriend was, but that's neither here nor there."
But all levity aside, the real purpose of the day was to spur an effort toward community volunteerism. During the press conference, Kutcher confessed to struggling with how to convince young people about the importance of volunteering, joking that a pitch like, "Go ahead and work for free," isn't exactly a compelling one.
Kutcher said that our cities, states and country are in a profound state of crisis and that young people need to step up and help instead of watching from the sidelines. Simply voting during election years is not enough, he said, encouraging young people to volunteer for community service and "activate their citizenship."
Bloomberg delivered a similar message during his MTV interview. "Now we've got to turn all of our good talk into real action," he said. "We've got a lot of volunteers, and we're going to make this city better — the whole country, I hope."
Watch the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Preshow this Sunday, September 13, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the big event, airing live at 9 p.m. New York is celebrating the VMAs all week long, so stay tuned for party coverage, concert reports, behind-the-scenes updates and more.