By Chad Kaydo and Suzanne Ito
The first week of September in New York was packed with events: Fashion Week's frenzy of shows, store openings and after-parties; a slew of magazine celebrations, launches and ad wingdings; the beginning of the benefit season. But the biggest bash of the week in New York--heck, on the planet--was MTV's Video Music awards (VMAs), which took over Lincoln Center for almost a week of set-up time, and filled various venues all over the city with related parties.
So here's a special report on the various VMA-related preparations, parties and promotions:
Who Was in Charge?
An event this big takes lots of workers and loads of vendors (more on some of those later). But the woman in charge of the the VMA ceremony itself was Kathy Flynn, MTV's vice president of production events, who oversees all of the events broadcast on the network, including MTV's 20th anniversary party. Meanwhile, Leslie Leventman, MTV Networks' executive vice president of creative services, special events and travel management, oversees all of the marketing events put on by MTV, as well as the other channels that fall under the MTV Networks umbrella (VH1, MTV2, Nickelodeon, et. al.). This year, while Flynn headed the ceremony, Leventman's staff put on a small pre-party for about 250 to 300 (mostly advertisers and marketing partners) at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. --C.K.
Read our Impresario profile of MTV's Leslie Leventman...
What Did MTV Serve?
Restaurant Associates, Lincoln Center's contract caterer, and the company's executive chefs, Tim McLaughlin and Tim Burma oversaw the menu for the pre-party and backstage catering. For the party, the chefs went international with the hors d'oeuvres, offering sushi, spring rolls, vegetable samosas, South African sosaties (chicken and apricot skewers in a curry-tamarind sauce), grilled shrimp and seared tuna tartare on papadam wafers. The buffet offered lemon chicken, grilled beef, soba noodle salad with honey peanut dressing and a chipotle Peruvian potato salad with toasted corn and green pepper, among other dishes. Food at the ceremony itself included jumbo gulf shrimp and Alaskan king crab legs. --S.I.
The Scoop on the Venue
Radio City Music Hall has hosted the ceremony many times, but this year MTV went back to the Metropolitan Opera House, which hosted the awards in 1999. After MTV's elaborate stage set was set up, the number of available seats at the Met was about half of the number the network uses at Radio City. That made tickets even harder to come by, and reduced MTV's revenue from the show (in addition to giving tickets to artists, advertisers, industry folks and other V.I.P.s, the company sold ducats in different sections for $10,000, $5,000 and $3,500). The majestic venue is also considerably more expensive to book than Radio City, and requires using union workers. --C.K.
How Long Was MTV's Red Carpet?
With performers including Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, 'NSync and U2--plus hordes of screaming teenagers and pushy paparazzi--MTV needed to get lots of red carpet and velvet rope. The source: Miller's Skytracker Premiere Services, who supplied three quarters of a mile worth of plush red carpet and more than 100 red velour rope sections to usher the event's guests through the Lincoln Center plaza. Miller's delivered the goods on Saturday, September 1, and worked during Labor Day weekend to make last-minute adjustments to the carpet's size and shape. (It had to go around the plaza's fountain and the sets where bands performed outside.) --C.K.
The Nuts and Bolts of the Outdoor Pre-Show
Production designer Doug Brant (aka: Spike) of Artfag, whose resume lists a veritable who's who of rock music, designed the entire pre-show set, and Atlantic Studios in Newark, N.J., took care of the construction. Mountain Productions built the 40-foot circular performance stage for the outdoor pre-show performances and news interviews. Workers from Unlimited Productions, who hires out union carpenters, supplied additional labor needed to mount this gigantic production. Setup started on Saturday, September 1. --S.I.
Lights, Cameras and More Lights
The celebrities weren't the only ones turning up the wattage outside the VMAs. Fourth Phase, a subsidiary of the Production Resource Group, handled all of the general lighting (like dimmers and console lighting) for the outdoor pre-show in the plaza. For more specialized lights, Eric Hirsch of Aerial Brilliance fixed the space with large, round Aerolites (similar to Airstars); Jem Studio Lighting provided the 1,000-watt springball lights for the red carpets, interview booths and outdoor stage; and Paskal Lighting provided the Kino Flo lights. --S.I.
P-Diddy's Big Entrance--and Late Planning
Talk about last-minute planning: The artist formerly known as Puff Daddy turned to BML Stage Lighting and Productions two days before the awards show to transform a 40-foot equipment trailer into a stage set for his performance. BML built a 20-foot stage and cabinets for a speaker system, an automated lighting system, a skytracker and even the generator, then drove it out to Lincoln Center and assembled it (with some help from union labor) for P-Diddy's big entrance. BML also provided the steel bike-rack barricades for MTV's pre-show. --S.I.
Meanwhile, Inside the Met...
Production designer Keith Raywood (who also designs for Saturday Night Live) took care of the overall indoor stage design. The 60's pop art stage decor (similar to the Sex and the City season premiere party and the Robin Hood Foundation gala...do we see a trend?) was paired with the set of Die Frau Ohne Schatten, an opera set that The New York Times reported he chose “because the scaffolding had a street quality 'which definitely had a rock.phpect.' ”
Lighting guru Alan Branton, who has done the lighting design for the VMAs for several years, did it again this year. Acadia Scenic built all of the scenery for the main stage and most performances. And Fourth Phase provided the PIGI projectors for U2's performance. --S.I.
What About the After-Parties?
MTV threw a post-party for the production crew at the Saloon, a large bar and restaurant across the street from Lincoln Center, but there was no large official after-party like the one the network threw last year. (Possible reason: a tighter budget due to higher prices for using Lincoln Center instead of Radio City Music Hall and the cost of the big MTV 20th anniversary party).
The artists often aren't into hanging around with the suits who populate such events anyway, so they tend to fan out to their own various parties all over town. (Last year, MTV corralled everyone through a tented tunnel after the show that led right into its party in Rockefeller Center, which took over all the Restaurant Associates restaurants in the plaza, and featured music from then-ubiquitous DJ Mark Ronson.)
Still, this year was a bit light in after-parties. We hear that Virgin was planning to threw a party at Lotus, but cancelled after the label's artist Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash. Interscope Records did have one at the Park. Maxim sponsored a party with the Firm (Limp Bizkit's management company) and Smirnoff at the Russian Tea Room. Among the large food spread and (surprise!) female models, guests got Yanova's GloGear light-up necklaces, which keep popping up at music-related events (Read our Discovery...), including MTV's 20th anniversary party. The Maxim party got extra coverage from a piece with Patrick McMullan on the Metro Channel's Full Frontal Fashion.
Maxim sister magazine Stuff threw a party for Jennifer Lopez at Man Ray, where an upset reporter from Fashion Wire Daily reported that “Door fascism reached a new low,” as 500 fans waited outside to get in for an hour, and model Markus Schenkenberg got turned away.
There were also a number of pre-parties. MTV hosted a small soiree (with cosponsor AT&T) before the event at the Time Hotel for the two contest winners who presented the viewer's choice award at the ceremony. And a number of magazines held related events the night before the big bash: GQ and Bacardi Limon hosted a party for nominee Nikka Costa, with decor by Musters & Company, at Saci. Bauer's Teen Group (publisher of Twist) held a pre-party at Lot 61, where Lance Bass of 'NSync “was the only recognizable teenybopper pin-up in attendance,” Inside.com reported. (Meanwhile, boy band-crazy teens went ga-ga a few blocks south at the Elle Girl launch party at the Roxy.) --C.K.
By Chad Kaydo and Suzanne Ito