DC Diary: Behind the scenes at the MTV Video Music Awards

Monday, Aug. 26
Radio City Music Hall
10 a.m.

Every year hordes of MTV enthusiasts turn to watch and experience the excitement of the Video Music Awards. Beyond the glitz and glamour of the star-studded red carpet, there is a world of hard working people that spend months making this awards show happen. This summer, I was one of them.

I took a taxi over to 51st and 6th streets to Radio City Music Hall to begin my week preparing for the Video Music Awards. With butterflies in my stomach, I approached the security desk where I gave my name and promptly received a crew pass. I found my way upstairs to the MTV on-site production office, which held all the MTV staff working on the awards for the week. I was assigned to help Joe Lewis, VMA Production Manager, who advised me to sign out my own walkie-talkie I would use to contact him as well as the other people in my department.

Wednesday, Aug. 28
8 a.m.

Large coffee in hand, outside Radio City Music Hall, I awaited deliveries of furniture, catering supplies and floral arrangements. I helped direct the caterers to the green room where free food and drinks would be available for all who had access on the night of the show.

As deliveries arrived, so did the stars prepping for their Thursday performances. I caught an up-close glimpse of the VMA’s host Jimmy Fallon getting out of his limousine. Following him was Ja Rule, Ashanti, Shakira and more. Confused as to whether to stare or whip out a camera, I kept reminding myself to take it all in and just enjoy.

Just then, a woman carrying many large bags approached me looking for Justin Timberlake’s dressing room. Being that I snuck up there an hour earlier, I knew exactly how to take her there. Here I was, Justin’s things in hand, walking up to his dressing room door with his assistant. My jaw was now halfway to the floor. Could all this be real?

With access to the stage area during rehearsals, I taped stickers along the orchestra floor as Shakira and her band warmed up. During my break, I sat five rows down from Avril Lavigne, who was also checking out Eminem’s rehearsal. Avril, who performed her song “Complicated” on the Radio City deck Thursday night, seemed excited to attend her first Video Music Awards as she and her band goofed off in their seats.

Thursday, Aug. 29
1 p.m.

With the awards only a few hours away, there was much to do. I helped bring in and set up boxes of gifts and programs that sat on the chairs of Viacom executives.

Throughout the day, I had to go back and forth to other MTV locations. Equipped with my headset and crew passes, people on the streets begged me for tickets. Teenage girls stared at me contemplating how they could possibly get into the awards. Around 5 p.m., I changed into my black shirt and pants, put on makeup and tried to mentally prepare myself for the next couple hours.

As the show started, I positioned myself in the green room watching as catering started presenting trays of sushi to guests. During the show, my time was spent watching from the back of the house as well as periodically checking back with my boss in the green room.

Even though I wasn’t outside on the red carpet, I was in the presence of plenty of stars as well as MTV video jockeys. I thought Britney Spears’ police ensemble complimented Christina Aguilera’s micro mini-shirt and dreads. I clapped and cheered when No Doubt took the Best Pop Video Award.

With Michael Jackson’s birthday landing on the same day as the awards, there was much commotion to order him a birthday cake and present. Everyone in my department went crazy trying to figure out how to get the two-tier cake inside and onto the stage in perfect condition.

My favorite part of the show was rocking out to Guns and Roses’ surprise performances of “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.” Not many people, even MTV staff, knew that they were performing that night. Knowing that my hard work and assistance helped create an MTV award show was the most rewarding part of this experience. Even though I wasn’t invited to Puff Daddy’s post-party extravaganza, I did go to an MTV crew party that was a blast. Oh well, there is always next year.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.