About the Show
Thursday, September 10, 1998
New York? Who needs it? Not us, we said in 1998, as we moved the MTV Video Music Awards back to our West Coast home in Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheatre. And because we were going all Hollywood, we got a new host in Ben Stiller. He's a funny guy, but Ben's an actor, not a comedian. What were we thinking?
Well, listen, punk. We knew what we were doing. Ben opened our shindig with a short film in which he played long-lost Backstreet Boys member Trent McJivvers. Oh yes, and we laughed. Hard. It was hard not to as, bitter from being left out of the group's success, his Trent formed his own misfit boy band with a claw-handed Andy Dick. Now that's funny!
Also funny was Ben's dad, legendary comic Jerry Stiller (you know him better as George Costanza's dad on Seinfeld), crashing his son's monologue via videophone to tell him to shut up and just bring the music.
It was Madonna's music -- and the accompanying video, of course -- that brought the awards that September night in 1998. Madge's latest reinvention brought in six Moonmen for "Ray of Light," including Best Female Video and Video of the Year.
The Backstreet Boys won the Best Group Video award for "Everybody," beating out Radiohead's "Karma Police," and, really, we've been waiting for Apocalypse ever since. So far? Nuthin'. Oh wait, could war, famine and global warming be signs of that? Crap. Sorry, that's definitely our fault then.
Aerosmith won the Best Video in a Film Moonman for "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from Armageddon, which was creepy considering that the song played during a scene with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler's daughter, Liv Tyler, and Ben Affleck that involved animal crackers and sexually suggestive themes. Awkward!
Less awkward, but far more revealing was the see-thru dress Rose MacGowan wore in accompanying boyfriend Marilyn Manson on the VMA red carpet. It was an eye-popping fashion choice that is still recalled today. (And regularly Googled, we're sure. No really, we're actually sure. There's this guy that works here that just won't let it go.) Marilyn and his band were on hand to perform his hit "The Dope Show." His outfit was a skintight blue latex thing complete with fake boobs and an asexual crotch. It made Rose's choice seem pretty tame, actually.
One of the performance highlights of the night came as MTV squashed a rumored feud between R&B singers Brandy and Monica. The hubbub started with their portrayal of rivals in the video for "The Boy is Mine." But seeing as they were ACTING, the rumor was laid to rest as they performed the song during the 1998 VMAs.
Who else graced the stage? Well, Lenny Kravitz whipped out a guitar solo for Madonna's performance of "Shanti/Ray of Light," and then there was the collaboration of Pras, Wyclef Jean, Ol' Dirty Bastard and Mya on "Ghetto Supastar." Plus Hole, Master P, the Backstreet Boys, the Dave Matthews Band and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Yow!
Don't forget that the Beastie Boys also performed, and were honored with the prestigious and much-deserved Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. But, instead of thanking God and his mom, the band's Adam Yauch (aka MCA) decided to make a political statement.
"It's kind of a rare opportunity that we get to speak to this many people at once," he said. "So, if you guys will forgive me I just want to speak my mind for a while."
And speak his mind he did! While some may have groaned, the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards hosted his bold statement, condemning the U.S. government's military aggression in the Middle East and pointing a finger at a climate of racism towards Muslims and Arabic people.
"The United States has to start respecting people from the Middle East in order to find a solution to the problem that's been building up over many years," he said.
No doubt, Yauch was on to something.