Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Come on up here, Frank!

I'm a celebrity, keep me out of here!
Rapper Kanye West is only the latest in a long line of stage invaders, says Susan Daly, and he probably won't be the last.

Wednesday September 16 2009

Security is understandably tight wherever you have a gathering of celebrities in one room. Ostensibly, those crowd barriers and bulldog bouncers are to keep the public at bay. In reality, some celebrities need protecting only from themselves.

Rapper Kanye West bolstered his reputation as a volatile awards ceremony guest on Sunday night when he grabbed the mic from Best Female Video winner Taylor Swift as she began her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York. He proceeded to rant that Beyonce, who had the grace to look horrified as she sat cringing in the audience, had "one of the best videos of all time".

His graceless interruption monopolised coverage of the VMAs, but he wasn't the only celeb to crash the stage on the night. Fellow rapper Lil' Mama hopped up uninvited at the end of Jay-Z's duet with Alicia Keyes, throwing shapes beside the two superstars.

Celebrities expect stage invasions from hyper-stimulated fans. Indeed, like Keith Richards who calmly pole-axed a trespasser with his guitar at a Rolling Stones concert in the States in 1981, they are prepared for them.

When the attack comes from inside, they are caught off-guard. Mr West is a serial offender, although this may have been the first time he protested on behalf of another artist. In 2004, he threw a hissy fit at the American Music awards when country singer Gretchen Wilson beat him to the Best Newcomer gong.

The MTV VMAs have twice previously been the target of his ire. In 2006 in Copenhagen, he crashed the stage during Justice Vs Simian's victory speech for Best Video. His 'Touch The Sky' video deserved the award, he said, on the basis that it starred Pamela Anderson and cost $1m to make.

A year later in Vegas, he became "upset" when he was asked to perform in a side venue rather than the main stage. He then lost in all five categories in which he was nominated. "I lost to the f*cking Black Eyed Peas last year, man. I'm never f*cking coming back to MTV," he ranted on camera backstage. Taylor Swift must be wishing he had stuck to his word.

His outbursts confirm what we all suspect about stars at awards ceremonies: that behind the smiles and gritted teeth the losing nominees are secretly eaten up by bitterness.

Occasionally the poker face slips. Samuel L Jackson was caught on camera mouthing an expletive when he lost out on the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Pulp Fiction at the 1995 Oscars. Elton John graciously took time on stage at the 2004 Q awards to have a pop at Madonna. "Madonna. Best F*cking Live Act? F*ck off! Since when has lip-synching been live?" he growled as the audience guffawed.

Rage Against The Machine's bassist Tim Commerford took it badly when the band lost out to Limp Bizkit at the 2000 VMAs. He was arrested after climbing a set piece at the show in Radio City Music Hall. Rock'n'roll anarchy might explain why many of these celebs-go-wild incidents take place at music award shows. Pulp's Jarvis Cocker expressed his fury at Michael Jackson's Messianic posturing onstage at the 1996 Brits by mooning the Gloved One's performance of Earth Song. Two years later, Chumbawamba guitarist Danbert Nobacon dumped a bucket of iced water on Labour politician John Prescott's head.

But there is frequently the whiff of publicity stunt sulphur about celebs behaving badly. (Cue Eminem's mock outrage when Sacha Baron Cohen creation Borat straddled his head at the MTV movie awards in June.)

Then there are the celebs who probably intended no harm but -- well -- it just kicked off. Lindsay Lohan seemed to simply get caught up in the moment when she clambered on stage at a Lily Allen concert in April, dancing awkwardly by her friend before shuffling stage left.

Movie star Jackie Chan had a karaoke moment in 2006 when he jumped onstage with Taiwanese singer Jonathan Lee in Hong Kong. Chan later said that he had "always wanted to be a singer".

Most unfortunate is the celeb who believes that they have actually won an award -- when they haven't. Film director Frank Capra suffered one of the most mortifying moments of his life when he thought he had won an Oscar at the 1934 Academy Awards. He started running up to the stage when the show's host Will Rogers announced, "Come on up and get it, Frank!" Sadly, Rogers was referring to Frank Lloyd.

DJ Brandon Block was similarly flustered at the 2000 Brit Awards when he landed on stage as Thora Birch and Ronnie Wood were presenting an award for Best Soundtrack to the film Notting Hill. A friend had mistakenly told Block he had won. Wood threw a drink over him to get him to leave the stage.

No doubt celebs will continue to make a show of themselves as long as there are big egos and free drinks on tap. It is just a case of learning how to deal with them.

So far no-one has matched David Niven for his swift dispatch of a naked man who streaked the stage as he presented an award at the 1973 Oscars. Niven coolly ad-libbed: "Isn't it fascinating to think the only laugh that man will probably ever get in his life was when he stripped down to his shortcomings." Ouch.

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