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Behind the Music: VH1/Vogue Awards

October 23, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

VH1/Vogue Fashion awards Hammerstein Ballroom Friday, 10.19.01, arrivals beginning at 7:30, show beginning at 9
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The VH1/Vogue Fashion awards were really two fairly different events--the one that VH1 broadcast on Tuesday, October 23, and the real, live one that took place at the Hammerstein Ballroom four days earlier. For example, in the edited-for-television version, when Calvin Klein announces the Model of the Year, Stella Tennant probably comes up and gives a speech (we haven't seen the broadcast yet). But at the in-person spectacle--really a television taping more than a live event--Tennant wasn't around when her name was called, and the VH1 crew had to tape her thank-yous about an hour later. And instead of the pre-taped Lenny Kravitz performance designated to begin the broadcast, the invited fashion, music and TV folks started their evening with an energetic, confetti-filled performance from De La Guarda. The Argentinean troupe's presentation--slated to be inserted later in the show--was taped first, so its lengthy set-up wouldn't disrupt the event. While such differences and breaks were perfectly understandable, they made the pacing of the live event a bit strained. But that wasn't the point, and for a television taping, the evening was fairly smooth.

It was also fairly full of big-name celebrities, among them actors and musicians including Jim Carrey, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Angie Harmon, Alicia Keys, Mick Jagger, Moby, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank and Renee Zellweger, and fashion designers John Galliano, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Stella McCartney and Vera Wang. (VH1's two weekend events--Friday's awards and Saturday's Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden headlined by Paul McCartney--probably helped each other draw celebs. If they were coming to town for one event, why not show up at the other?)

Planners believed such a high-profile event warranted significant security, so security firms Citadel and Star Watch supplied a very visible force of security professionals. Guests had to pass through metal detectors located just inside all four doors to the Manhattan Center's lobby, and the celebrities who entered through a special red carpet area with photographers went through a fifth metal detector just inside the ballroom.

The Hammerstein is capable of looking appropriate for both rock and roll shows and benefits, and VH1's production mixed a rock stage sensibility with a more fashionable, stylish look. (A favorite of MTV Networks--the Viacom division with MTV, VH1 and other cable networks--the Hammerstein has hosted its holiday staff party and MTV's 20th anniversary event.) Tribe Inc.'s Bruce Rodgers designed a main stage with lots of L.E.D. screens and silver tressing, and a smaller stage made of LED screens in the center of the seating area allowed the award presenters to hand off the prizes in the middle of the audience. And a white runway lit from below circled the main floor, which was filled with sleek white plastic tables and chairs designed by Philippe Starck, so it looked a bit like the assembled celebrities were watching a fashion show at some sort of very modern, very expensive picnic area. (Even the white confetti matched.)

Rodgers, who designed Madonna's Drowned World tour, told us he and Vogue editrix Anna Wintour wanted the set to reflect the collision of fashion and music, and that he had altered his original design after the September 11 attacks. “It had been more raw and industrial. It was a little too rough,” he said. “We made it a little more cleaned up and polished--not as raw and dirty.”

While the glitterati sat in the Starck chairs on camera, the rest of the audience (including bigwigs Wintour and MTV Networks CEO Tom Freston) sat in regular seats on the two mezzanines, in the back of the main floor and in the boxes. The crowd's energy waxed and waned throughout the event, which lasted until almost 1 AM. They raved when De La Guarda showcased elements of the exciting, immensely entertaining show the troupe has been performing at the Daryl Roth Theatre for more than three years (not quite fashion-forward though, was it?). Special guest Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton received a standing ovation, and thanked the sponsors for not moving the event and joked that she was getting a lifetime achievement award for wearing black pantsuits (she wore a white blouse with enormous frilly cuffs under said suit). But as the show went on, many of those on the balcony walked around the area behind the seats, grabbing drinks and nibbling hors d'oeuvres.

Because the Hammerstein has less seating than Madison Square Garden (last year's venue) VH1 also threw a viewing party for advertisers and other V.I.P.s upstairs in the Grand Ballroom, where contract caterer Tentation served a menu including lobster medallions on green pea pancakes with spicy tomato coulis, and roast breast of muscovy duck with lingonberry on ficelle.

After the taping, VH1 and Vogue hosted an after-party at the Park, with decor by Avi Adler, who also designed the after-party for fashion's other big New York awards show, the Council of Fashion Designers of America's American Fashion awards.

--Chad Kaydo

Read our coverage of MTV's 20th anniversary party...

Read our coverage of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's awards...

Read our coverage of MTV's Video Music awards...

Read our profile of MTV Networks event chief Leslie Leventman...

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