About the Show
Thursday, September 08, 1988
Hosted by Arsenio Hall
The 1988 MTV Video Music Awards saw a return to the single host, and we liked it so much we kept that format and the same host for four years running. Who was the personality that was so compelling that we couldn't do without him for so long? Say it with us: Arsenio Hall.
That's right, despite the fact that his name starts with "arse" (it's U.K. slang; look it up, kids), we started something we just couldn't stop. You see, Arsenio hadn't even started hosting his own talk show yet. His fist pumping was all ours in 1988. But he was no slouch. A well-known comedian, Hall had just starred opposite former VMA host Eddie Murphy in Coming To America. And Arsenio showed up to Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheatre with his A-game and proved that all it takes is one man with many, many colorful suits to be the ringleader of this circus we call the MTV Video Music Awards.
Unlike the previous year's near-complete sweep of awards by Peter Gabriel, the big winner this year was INXS, who took home a paltry four awards. Oh sure, they included important ones, like Video of the year and Viewer's Choice for "Need You Tonight – Mediate." Well, when you put it that way, it was pretty damned impressive. OK then, moving on!
It was the year that videos by pop/R&B heavyweights Michael Jackson and Prince went head-to-head in the Best Choreography category, but it was Janet Jackson's "The Pleasure Principal" that took the Moonman. It marked the second year in a row that a Janet clip earned the award; the previous year it was Paula Abdul who choreographed her moves; this time it was Barry Lather. (Incidentally, Paula would take the award for one of her own videos the next year, while Janet would get a piece of one for co-choreographing one of hers the year after that. Face it, those girls can dance!)
And 1988 marked the year that VMAs first honored one of our core artists of the time, heralding the arrival of one of the all-time greatest rock bands: Guns N' Roses. Yes, it was then that Axl Rose, Slash & Co. won the Best New Artist Moonman for their enduring anthem, "Welcome to the Jungle."
The VMA performances, as usual, did not disappoint. Jody Watley took the stage in a tailored white suit and cropped black hair only to take her wig off halfway through her performance of "Some Kind of Lover" to reveal long hair underneath, which was obviously a metaphor for, um, nothing. So what? It was interesting, at least.
There was also a leather pants-off as Aerosmith's Steven Tyler (performing "Dude Looks Like a Lady") and Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan (performing "Strangelove") tried to make 'em second skin (it's possibly that Tyler wore then 11 year-old daughter Liv's favorite pair of white Girbauds, but even we can't confirm that).
And the aforementioned Guns 'N Roses ROCKED the house with a blazing performance of "Welcome to the Jungle." That's it. They ROCKED, plain and simple. 'Nuff said.