MTV Celebrities Ride out the storm with Miami

The damage sustained by Miami during Hurricane Katrina seemed a world away from the American Airlines Arena Sunday night. MTV and the city of Miami worked hard to make the return of the VMAs run smoothly amid the madness. The sight of littered streets and downed trees were replaced by expensive threads, shiny diamonds and un-soaked white carpet. Screaming fans and flickering flashbulbs were side by side with the wide smiles worn by well-primped celebrities added to the surreal aura of the event. Most onlookers hadn’t washed clothes or showered in days, but the mood was upbeat and energy was high.

Miami’s humidity exposed A-lister mortality as sweat became the new bling on the long walk down the white carpet. Host Diddy called for a switch from standard red, providing a beautiful and unique twist upon entrance. The smell of brand new carpet was unmistakable. Stars seemingly walk 50 feet on TV, but in actuality the carpet is as drawn out as a line at Disney World. This provides hundreds of press from every medium and every nation a coveted spot to interview and photograph celebrities. Even with all the room, press holdings can get out of hand. Frenzied paparazzi shouted “Look at me, look at me,” and then cussed stars who didn’t provide them with the right wink or smile. It isn’t so funny when paparazzi get physical though, and standing along the white carpet or backstage photo room can be hazardous to your health.

The main press interview room was far tamer. No cameras allowed in this room, only audio equipment or pen and paper. It was delightful chatting with Alicia Keys, who is credited with resurrecting the long-absent MTV Unplugged series. She recently filmed an acoustic set that will air on MTV Sept.3. After performing on last year’s VMAs with Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder, I was curious if Keys has an extended wish list of artists she aspires to work with. “I would love to record with Stevie Wonder,” she replied, elaborating on how incredible it was playing with him the year before. Other favorites include “Prince, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Outkast.”

Paris Hilton spent time promoting her upcoming debut album, for which she is planning a tour. I asked Hilton what style backing band she would take on the road, wondering if she might go the rock and roll route. “I’m not sure yet, I have to discuss it with my label,” she said. Regardless of her musical chops, Hilton will look good in the process and probably sell millions of records. Hilton’s sister, Nicky, was present with boyfriend and Entourage star Kevin Connolly. Connolly was a class act, but did not relinquish any secrets about the season finale.

Green Day took home enough Moonmen to pilot the next Apollo mission, seven to be exact. Many backstage joked whether or not they won “Best Rap Video” as well. Along with “Best New Artist” The Killers, My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, it seems a rock and roll revival is taking place.

Though thousands without power in South Florida missed the event on TV, the VMAs were a much needed distraction that reminded us of how beautiful our home is. Even with a Hurricane blowing through, Miami is the place to be.

John Heslin can be reached at