Scream Therapy

On a busy VMA weekend, Miami raised the art of celebrity worship to new heights

The citywide blowjob known as the MTV Video Music Awards reached its apex on Saturday, August 28, the night before the ceremony. Washington and Collins avenues in Miami Beach were clogged with limousines, Hummers, and their poorer Ford and Chevy cousins. The clubs were packed, people were pushed against the velvet ropes, and surly doormen enthusiastically manhandled patrons. Ticket prices for these so-called MTV parties (after all, MTV itself was responsible for precious few of them) ranged from $35 for a ticket to the Beastie Boys LIFEBeat benefit concert at Crobar to priceless -- meaning, if you weren't on the list, you didn't get in -- for the many "private" events at hotels and lounges. Then there were the ultra-exclusive affairs thrown at P. Diddy's place and by other super-rich people who call Miami their "second home."

And what were we doing all weekend? The same thing, of course. Yes, we gawked at and conversed with our share of celebrities. We saw Paris Hilton with such frequency that we thought we'd have to elbow her away from the counter at Puerto Sagua, one of the few real Cuban joints left on South Beach. One Andy -- Dick -- mooned a group of delighted high school students while another -- Garcia -- strode past, low-key in dark glasses and khakis. And the Olsen twins surely didn't seem food-deprived -- somethingwas fueling their metabolisms furiously enough to keep them going through daybreaking parties at the Raleigh and the Delano.

Yes, by Sunday night, we were pretty burned out. Still, we managed to make it to American Airlines Arena to hear all the screaming teenyboppers assembled in the new park behind the venue.

"Five, four, three... Applause! Keep it going!" commands a production assistant to the 200 or so kids in place for a very special afternoon episode of TRL. The show hasn't even begun taping yet, but the kids, mostly girls in bikini tops and jeans, are already screaming their hearts out. It's nearing TRLstart time. For the next 15 minutes, the production crew keeps everyone amped up by cranking up the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get Retarded." When Nina Sky's "Move Ya Body" comes on, several girls leap onto the stage to shake their little booties. It turns out to be the most happily inspired moment of the afternoon.

Just as everyone is twirling and twisting, flushed and happy, a boy suddenly collapses. The music is summarily cut off. "Everybody, please remember to drink water," says an overhead announcer as medical staff and police quickly encircle the boy. He's still on the ground when TRLbegins broadcasting live at 5 p.m. and is quietly carted off on a stretcher while the number nine video on the special VMA countdown, Eminem's "My Band," plays on a large-screen video panel.

Back at the bayside arena, though, stars are practically falling out of yachts. Carson Daly interviews pop stars such as the black-haired, black-eyelined men of Good Charlotte, while John Norris prepares to ambush busty Beyonce and Li'l (collagen) Kim as they get off their huge, phallic boats. Ma$e, the cadence-averse hip-hopper whose unretirement was demanded by none, shows up and says, "I'm back," a phrase he would annoyingly repeat during each subsequent public appearance. Later that night, Dave Chappelle would wish Jay-Z well in his retirement with a montage that more closely resembled an after-school special than a toast to one of hip-hop's biggest players. When we saw Usher -- who won two Moonmen that night -- walking down the red carpet outside the arena, his publicist quickly tried to escort him past us. But we managed to ask him a question. What did he think of the cover story [Miami New Times] ran on him last week?

"Love 'em man," Usher said. "That was a good profile of me. I wish they hadn't got me with my tongue in my mouth, though."

For most of the thousands of people who descended upon South Beach last week, the goal wasn't to actually interact with the celebrities in town. They simply wanted to see the stars, watch them have a good time, and maybe get a souvenir picture or two. Last week was all about showering the stars with love and affection. In what nearly became a news story in itself, the venerable Miami Heraldran pages of stories fawningly centered on celebrity, along with a blog of sightings from nearly a dozen reporters posted to the newspaper's website on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

Yet the VMAs, for all their star power and bling and celebrity pulchritude, turned out to be a lackluster, anticlimactic event. And our jaws sure hurt.

 
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