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Monday, February 24, 2003


Dept. of the Red Ones

WFOoBH reports from the 45th Grammy** Awards

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK. Firstly, as I stalk the backstage of world-famous Madison Square Garden, I feel compelled to note that the backstage craft services spread is wanting. Is serving Polly-O string cheese next to a platter of delicate foie gras someone's idea of a joke? Likewise, the Pharmaceutical Bar does not appear to be in compliance with the WFOoBH Media Coverage Rider. While it is stocked with an impressive array of prescription-only celebrity mood-enhancing staples like Xanax, Valium, and Darvocet, but where's the Claritin? Some of us are deathly allergic to the fur coats that P. Diddy's entourage are so nonchalantly swinging around like they're on the catwalk, and Courtney Love's insisted on bringing eight ermine on leashes. My face is about to bumpily inflate like a badly-patched bicycle tire.

But I digress. By and large, I've been treated like the internet royalty that I am. The Grammy producers have obligingly provided me with a cardtable for my laptop just offstage from where I can post a minute-by-minute account of the action. A dose of complimentary Ritalin (plus a handful of these cool-looking red ones, a couple of yellows, and this one horse pill that someone assures me is all-natural) has done a commendable job of letting me focus on the task at hand instead of the orgy that's taking place just twenty feet away. I won't tell you who's cavorting in the flesh pile -- this ain't Page 6 -- but let's just say that it's a sandwich with a distinctly Latin flavor.

I settle in at the laptop and type feverishly away before a single act has taken the stage. I've got fifteen single-spaced pages done before the show begins. Following is an excerpt of the minute-by-minute proceedings I recorded before being carried from the backstage area, trying to gnaw off my socks:

--Simon and Garfunkel open the show with a heartfelt rendition of their timeless hit, "American Pie." The five people in attendance over forty years of age are enraptured.

--Dustin Hoffman reprises his beloved Tootsie role, appearing in a red-sequined dress. It must be the anniversary of that landmark film's release. The five people in attendance over forty years old are again very pleased. This is shaping up to be their show.

--The Hell's Angels from Altamont lead a deeply heartfelt candlelight salute to the victims of the Great White tragedy in Rhode Island. A dry eye in the house can't be found as the tribute ends in a dazzling pyrotechnic display.

--Seemingly conjured by the leaping multicolor flames, the apparition of the dead one from Milli Vanilli alights at the podium to finally return his ill-gotten award. The camera pans across the crowd, finally settling on the living Milli Vanilli guy, who is wearing his Grammy statue in true bling-bling fashion. He quickly clutches it to his chest and rushes out from the theater.

--Eminem accepts the Grammy for Best Rap Album and is canonized by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and a giant alligator via satellite.

--A tear comes to my eye as Rick Dees provides a bravura performance of "Disco Duck" backed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; one really can't appreciate the emotional range of that song without a full complement of strings to put flesh on the lovely bones of the original arrangement. By the end, I am openly weeping from every pore of my being.

--Unexpectedly, Avril Lavigne calls Gwen Stefani on stage at the end of her hit "Sk8r Boi" (creative spelling is hers). As she and Stefani harmonize over the song's final chorus, Lavigne unhinges her jaw and swallows the No Doubt chanteuse whole, finally belching forth a pair of low-rider jeans.

--Robin Williams introduces Bruce Springsteen entirely in a pantomimed pig-Latin; a deafening silence greets the Boss as the audience tries to decode Williams' wild gesticulations.

--Springsteen segues from a cut from his post 9-11 effort, "The Rising," into a Clarence Clemons-led version of the Pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass. The audience follows without missing a single instance of sitting, standing, or kneeling. Little Steven Van Zandt handles the tricky transubstantiation ritual with aplomb.

--Nary a boy band has appeared. This dilemma is solved as the surviving members of 'N Sync (their numbers depleted because three of them perished in the Columbia disaster, or so I'm told by a man in a black suit and pink earmuffs) sing a medley tribute (the four thousandth such tribute of the evening) to the Bee Gees, ending with "Staying Alive." At the conclusion of the song, a dramatic walk-on by John Travolta halts the joyful singing three bars early as the "Saturday Night Fever" star gets handsy with Justin Timberlake.

--The ethereal beauty Norah Jones wins her record three-hundredth Grammy of the evening. She is also awarded a Tony, three Oscars, the Staples Employee of the Month for February, and the prestigious Booker Prize for her album "Come Away with Me." Seeing at how many plaudits Jones needs to cart from the stage, I stumble to her side to offer my strong back to her service. She whispers in my ear that I'm a magnificent animal the likes of which she's never seen, and manages to slip her hotel room key into my pocket. All goes black.

The notes become incomprehensible after this point. In fact, I am lucky to have recovered any of the minutes as I come to pinned to the floor and straddled by Kiss entrepreneur Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper tearing ferociously at my earlobe. Disaster is averted as Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx (late of Motely Crue) each grab a leg and drag me to the relative safety of the room where Madison Square Garden's Zamboni is garaged. My blood dapples crimson on a pile of snow, and a fresh wound is opened on my brow as the laptop is carelessly tossed on the crumpled heap of my person. My hand immediately goes to my pockets; the Crue must have spirited away the key to Norah's room as they "saved" me from the duo of cartoonishly theatrical rock incubi.

I discover the show's over as I slouch through the Garden's barren corridors and return to my hotel, where I file this report. The red light on the hotel phone blinks insistently as I try and make sense of what I've typed. I give in to curiosity and check the messages. It's Norah's smokey voice, plaintively wondering "I don't know why you didn't call." I listen closely in hopes she'll leave a number. Instead, I hear two male voices hollering in the background. It's Lee and Sixx.

I can only make out the following: "Next time lay off the red ones, asshole!" Then laughter.

Norah's giggle is the last thing I hear before the roar of the dial tone. I am sure of one thing: sleep will not come easily.

[**Grammy is a trademark of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Inc. They own the word Grammy, the award that looks like a tiny gramophone, and your grandmother if she is referred to as "Grammy." We at WFOoBH recommend that you call either of your parents' mother "Grandmother" or "Nana" or by some other ethic diminutive that does not bear a homophonic semblance to the NARAS trademark. Should you insist on referring to her as "Grammy," representatives will hunt her down and end her long, distinguished life with a pillow as she sleeps her last, and you will get no more fresh-baked cookies nor ten-dollar bills on Valentine's Day.]

[It's a wonder this site ever gets published given all the "partying" of the last week. I ask you all, why must I rock so hard, with such duration, at such magnitude? I'm just talking out loud. Don't mind me. I can't sleep with Lee and Sixx's voices echoing in my head.]

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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