MIAMI — Beyond the music, fire and water, there was plenty of action at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards that the cameras couldn't catch ... the odd meet-ups and match-ups. We were backstage and behind the scenes to catch it all:

In the backstage talent-holding area, two huge screens played the show for guests, who also got to feast on a spread that included skewered chicken, lobster, shrimp and an open bar. Shaquille O'Neal hung out there for a while with fellow baller Dwyane Wade, but when Jessica Alba walked in he gave her a hug that lifted her off the ground. Shaq also made sure to tell Common how much he liked his music as the conscious rapper watched Ludacris and Bobby Valentino's performance on one of the screens. Luda and Bobby V., incidentally, had to run — literally — to hit the stage on time.

While Kanye West performed with Jamie Foxx onstage (see "Green Day Clean Up, Kelly Clarkson Gets Wet, 50 Rips Into Fat Joe At VMAs"), Jessica Simpson, the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie and Paulina Rubio grooved backstage. The trio gathered around a TV in a plush green room, laughing and shaking their hips to West's beat. A bit later, the three took turns admiring each other's dresses (see "Stars Rise To Diddy's Challenge With Hot Fashion On The VMA White Carpet"), with Fergie tugging at Simpson's plunging hemline.

Elsewhere, O.J. Simpson and his crew — one of whom was wearing a bright yellow jacket with a drawing of Michael Jackson's face on the back — walked down the hallway. O.J. said, "What are we doing backstage? I'm ready to go to the afterparties."

Nearby, Yellowcard's Ryan Key moseyed up to the bar and shook hands with Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington. The three chatted for a minute, then pulled out their BlackBerries and exchanged numbers.

Quincy Jones made the rounds, chatting up Ashlee Simpson and her band, shaking hands with Nelly and huddling in a corner with Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am. A few minutes later, Will could be seen laughing with Common and Jeremy Piven. Apparently taking a liking to Piven's suit, Will pulled back the actor's lapel to inspect the label. Minutes after winning the Moonman for Best New Artist, the Killers posed with their hardware and accepted congratulations from David Banner. As they were hustled to the press room, frontman Brandon Flowers turned to guitarist Dave Keuning and sighed, "I always forget someone in those speeches. Did I remember to thank [director] Sophie [Muller]?" "I don't know," Keuning said. "Did you remember to thank Eric Roberts?"

Early on, Green Day looked like punk presidents as they arrived, waving and blowing kisses atop a banged-up convertible. After displaying their sufficiently un-pimped ride with Sway, they did laps around the pre-show stage, shaking hands with fans and leaping on the hood of their car. After clearing the stage, they ran into members of 50 Cent's G-Unit posse, giving them hearty hugs and handshakes.

As Rihanna and her dancers warmed up beside the stage before performing "Pon De Replay" on the pre-show, Sway stopped by to give them some pointers and encouragement, reminding them to smile, because they were about to play the biggest stage they'd ever been on.

Racecar driver Jeff Gordon seemed a bit perplexed, arriving between a glittering Paul Wall (who displayed his glistening grill and massive pimp-cup necklace to cheering fans) and the bellowing Ying Yang Twins. As they posed for photographers, D-Roc asked the crowd, "How y'all like this heat?" and then — without knowing — dropped his "artist access" pass on the white carpet, sending fans into a wild scramble. The pass was eventually returned to Roc by a beefy security guard.

Never one to play by the rules, Bishop Don "Magic" Juan's SUV passed its mark on the white carpet by several hundred feet. As an MTV worker started giving the SUV's driver an earful, Juan advised the employee, "It's all chuuuch, baby!"

Akon had some auto-related problems as well. He wheeled his cherry-red Ferrari onto the pre-show stage's ramp, ready to drive it onto the rotating display (see "Snoop, Game, Luda And Shaq Show Off Their Donks And Drop-Tops"), but the plan seemed a complete surprise to event security. They stopped his car and removed it from the ramp, which left Akon standing rideless and clueless for a good five minutes before he was whisked away onto the white carpet.

Lil Jon and Carmen Electra hugged and exchanged pleasantries atop the arrivals area, the king of crunk eyeing her up and down, giving her a twirl and saying, "Damn, that dress looks delicious." Jon then stepped aside and hugged a Cohiba-smoking Kanye West, laughing and asking for a drag from the pricey stogie.

Good Charlotte's Benji and Joel Madden created a logjam atop the arrivals area, giving daps to Houston rappers Slim Thug and Mike Jones, taking time to admire Jones' sparkling fronts. Their attention quickly shifted to the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, who arrived on the white carpet with a pair of scantily clad girls handing out ice cream treats to cheering fans.

Ice-T kidded the suddenly blowing-up Jones, making a phone gesture with his hand and yelling, "Ay, Mike, I tried to reach you, but you ain't picking up the phone. I wanna do something with you, man." T then turned his attention to Williams, shaking his hand while Pharrell bowed in reverence.

Gwen Stefani and Lil' Kim embraced on the carpet, showering each other with kisses and compliments. "You look fabulous!" Gwen gushed. "Darling, you do too!" Kim countered.

Lindsay Lohan arrived on the white carpet in a massive SUV, and after she exited, a seemingly endless stream of her friends, stylists, bodyguards and publicists followed behind her. As she made her way past the photographers and up the carpet, she shook hands with Jay-Z — interrupting a powwow between him and Snoop Dogg. But no one seemed to notice, as all three smiled and laughed while waving to cheering fans.

Hulk Hogan's family made the scene, taking pictures with Game. Later, Hogan asked Juelz Santana to take pictures with his daughter Brooke on the white carpet — he obliged. Akon and Kim Porter hugged while the Ying Yang Twins yelled and flashed the gold in their mouths. Young City (a.k.a. Da Band's Chopper) ran across the white carpet to hug Kim as well.

On Saturday, well before the awards kicked off, dozens of heavyweights made their way to the American Airlines Arena to greet the press, pimp projects and schmooze.

The annual VMA Radio Forum is designed for artists to kill a bunch of birds (i.e. radio station interviews) with one stone, but it's also a major networking event and there was plenty of that this year.

When Lil Scrappy crossed paths with labelmates Green Day, the rapper went right in for the gold. "We need to hook it up," he told Billie Joe Armstrong. "You guys should give me a beat."

"Leave your number with my publicist," the frontman replied.

"We met Mr. Scrappy, we saw the boys in Good Charlotte — we've seen a lot of gold teeth," Billie Joe said later. "And some pimp cups and the Ying and the Yang," bassist Mike Dirnt added.

Good Charlotte, on hand to support Green Day and other friends (My Chemical Romance and the Game, according to singer Joel Madden), also rubbed elbows with the Ying Yang Twins and Alicia Keys. "She was very nice," Benji Madden said. "Usually people come up and say they like our band, so it's a great place to make new friends. It's like going to summer camp."

Keys went straight to the arena after arriving in Miami, so she was anxious to get out and see the city. "I do plan to go into the water," the singer said. "I love to swim, I think I might want to do some water skiing or some wave-running or some fishing, something that involves a boat and water."

The Bravery are new to Miami but were having no problem navigating the city thanks to a certain video game. "It's just like 'Vice City,' " singer Sam Endicott said. "We didn't realize how accurate it is to the video game. We were driving down the street and our drummer started freaking out, 'You don't know how many times I've crashed a Porsche into that building!' "

As he navigated from interviewer to interviewer, Usher literally bumped into My Chemical Romance, whom the R&B star was eager to meet — even if he had a strange way of showing it. "Hi Steve, I'm Usher," he said to the band's singer. "Hi, I'm Gerard," the frontman replied with a smile.

It's OK, Usher; it's hard to keep track of everyone's names. Just ask Brooke Hogan, who made the rounds with her family. "We went to a big party last night and we got to meet ... oh, I can't remember her name," she said. "Mom?"

"You can't remember Mariah Carey? Hello!" Linda Hogan responded. "That was the highlight of the whole weekend. She's like a princess."

My Chemical Romance spent the majority of the radio forum stifling yawns, but not because they were bored: They had just flown overnight from England, where they played both the Reading and Leeds music festivals. Their post-VMA party plans were also a bit different than most. "We're going to hit up our beds," guitarist Ray Toro yawned.

"Actually, I might party a bit. I haven't partied in a long time," frontman Gerard Way interjected. "But we party a little differently than, like, Trick Daddy. We like high-speed Internet and strong coffee."

Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz actually hit Miami late Friday night, looking to mingle with Nelly, but didn't have much luck. "I went to his party [at Miami club Opium] but I didn't see him there," Wentz said. "So I just ended up going back to the hotel and ordering a whole bunch of room service."

He struck gold, however, at the rapper-rich radio forum, rubbing elbows with rapper/actor Ice-T. "I held off an interview to get a photo with Ice-T, and I was asking him, 'What about Body Count?' " Wentz laughed. "Body Count is awesome. Without them, Fall Out Boy probably wouldn't be a band."

After the forum, Keys popped into the arena to watch West's rehearsal. A bit later in the day, as 50 Cent rehearsed, all four members of Coldplay journeyed out of their dressing rooms to watch, frontman Chris Martin calmly sipping a cup of tea.

[This story was originally published at 5:06 p.m. ET on 08.28.2005]