5:07pm - So here I am, backstage at the 25th MTV Video Music Awards at Hollywood's Paramount Studios. Now, before you think I'm bragging here, please keep in mind that this is not as glamorous as it sounds. Oh no, it's not like I'm drinking Cristal with Chris Brown or kissing Katy Perry or anything awesome like that. See, while the stars are traipsing down the red carpet in their Gucci gowns and double-sided fashion tape, I'm stuck in the "Press Compound"--safely sequestered about 100 frustrating feet away from the real action, wearing a dress from Target (or Tar-jay, if I'm trying to sound more classy), and watching all the red-carpet proceedings on a close-circuited TV monitor. Oh, the sheer agony of knowing that Tokio Hotel's monster truck is right outside, and I can't hop aboard! Grrrr...
5:24pm - But hey, it's still kind of exciting in here--there's a heavily MTV-logo-branded stage smack dab in front of me, where presumably tonight's winners will soon appear, shiny new MoonMen in hand, to personally answer reporters' burning "Who are you wearing?" queries. (If one of them actually answers, "Tar-jay," I will feel soooo vindicated.) And hey, there's free food in here ("free food" is the second-most-favorite phrase of any music journalist, after "open bar"). And Russell Brand is somewhere nearby, possibly close enough to breathe my recirculated air. (Yes, I know he looks like he hasn't pulled a comb through his hair since 1985--even those Tokio Hotel guys probably think Russell's 'do is a bit much--but the smitten Anglophile in me can't resist that dreamy Brit accent.) And I've just gotten word that Britney is in the building! Possibly with her 900-pound elephant! Very exciting stuff indeed.
5:31pm - I go outside to use the restroom, and I see Slash sailing by on a go-cart shuttle. At least I think it's him. I'd recognize that top hat and headful of corkscrew curls anywhere.
5:36pm - I re-enter the Press Compound and see Kaba Modern and Fanny Pak from America's Best Dance Crew on the TV monitor. I let out a wholly unprofessional shriek (I'm a mega ABDC fan), and my fellow journalists look at me like I'm crazy. And they're right--I'm going crazy that I'm not outside, watching my fave crew Fanny Pak in person.
5:44pm - Taylor Swift is on the TV monitor interviewing her "favorite people ever," the Jonas Brothers. Ahem. I study the screen closely, looking for clues of romantic chemistry between Taylor and Joe. Is that a purity ring I see on Taylor's finger?
5:50pm - Ashlee Simpson appears on the monitor and a collective gasp fills the Press Compound. How did she get SO big, SO fast? She wasn't even sporting a baby bump at her shotgun Wentz wedding in late May. Now she looks like she's carrying septuplets (not her rumored twins) under that black muumuu-tarp of hers. She seriously looks like she's well into her fourth trimester. Good thing that's a widescreen monitor we're watching her on.
6pm - The show of show finally begins. Britney's in her dressing room, seeming far more lucid than she did at last year's VMAs when she appeared--dead-eyed, lead-footed, and flabby-midriffed--in a disastrous opening number that nearly ruined her already-nearly-ruined career. Judging by tonight, Britney should stick to just do skits with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, methinks. She still mispronounces "anniversary" when she introduces Rihanna's opening "Disturbia" performance (which is awesome, in a Tina-Turner-at-Thunderdome kind of way), and it seems like there's been a disproportionate amount of hype surrounding Britney saying about 10 words. But whatever--compared to how Brit fared at the 2007 VMAs, she does a'ight tonight. Welcome back, Britney, I guess.
6:09pm - Russell Brand, apparently wearing Amy Winehouse's discarded beehive wig and Ashlee Simpson's pre-pregnancy skinny jeans, struts onstage to an Oasis song. That's the first time Oasis have been played on MTV since 1995! Well done, lads. Anyway, Russ wastes no time in blatantly plugging Barack Obama and calling Prez Dubya a "retarded cowboy." The press room collectively cheers. Guess the stereotype is true: We media types really are a liberal bunch.
6:11pm - I notice two MoonMen trophies sitting on the floor, all by their lonesome. I resist the urge to take a photograph with one--as cool as it would look on my Facebook page, I don't want to risk being wrestled to the ground by MTV security. I managed to sneak a pic of the trophies nonetheless.
6:18pm - Britney Spears wins her first VMA, for Best Female Pop Video. Wow, didn't see that one coming. Really now, it's obvious that MTV has been setting Britney up to be this year's VMA comeback kid. Maybe the VMA execs actually have souls and feel a little guilty about selling her out last year, letting her perform even though she was clearly in no condition to do so. So Britney, bubbly and Bedazzler'd, walks to the podium without tripping (again, an improvement over last year) and keeps her speech blissfully short and sweet, thanking God and the two boys she no longer has custody of. She manages to sound coherent, which is a surprise and a plus. Although she does say this award is "a honor." As opposed to "an honor." But I'll let that slide and just send her my congrats. Even though I wanted Katy Perry to win. Oh well, maybe Katy will win Best New Artist later...
6:30pm - Taylor Swift introduces her rumored boyfriend Joe Jonas and his ubiquitous brothers. She stumbles reading off the teleprompter, but maybe Russell Brand's off-color (and totally hilarious) joke about the Jonases' virginity threw her off. As if to reinforce the whole innocent-virgin G-rated concept of their act, the Jonas Brothers perform "Love Bug" sitting on the steps of what appears to be a Sesame Street tenement.
6:34pm - Katy Perry sings of snippet of the historic VMAs classic "Like A Virgin." Interesting segueway after famous virgins the Jonas Brothers.
6:40pm - Russell Brand makes a Katy Perry-inspired joke about putting cherry Chapstick on his private parts. OK, it's official: Russell Brand is the Best. VMA. Host. Ever. I'm so glad the VMAs have a host again, after last year's ill-advised host-free, running-amok-in-a-Vegas-hotel experiment. The VMAs need one central, main emcee to deliver the penis jokes. And Russell's the man for the job.
6:47pm - Fanny Pak win the viewers' vote in tonight's ABCD dance battle, beating out season 1's Kaba Modern. I scream like an idiot upon hearing this fab news, and the reporters in the room cast more disparaging looks in my direction. Clearly they don't realize how awesome Fanny Pak are, or they'd be cheering too.
6:52pm - Everyone in the Press Compound is still waiting for Britney Spears to show up and do her Q&A. Instead an MTV staffer announces that Ryan Sheckler is coming backstage. A resounding chorus of "who?" follows. Poor Ryan.
7:01pm - Fanny Pak come backstage! I act like I'm 12 and the Jonas Brothers just showed up. No one else seems as excited as me, and one crabby photographer even seems annoyed by them, grumbling something like "Someone needs to teach them how to pose." Someone needs to teach that photographer how to shut up, I say. Fannypak know how to strike a pose.
7:12pm - Pink performs on what appears to be the leftover movie set from Newsies, and the big news is Pink is still utterly rad. She's just totally, unapologetically herself, and I adore her for that. Same reason I adore Russell Brand, come to think of it. And why I adore Fannypak, too.
7:15pm - Joseph and Chester from Linkin Park show up backstage. Someone yells, "Go LP!" and for a minute I think he's saying it to me, because the band and I share the same initials. Whatever. I still think Fall Out Boy's hysterical Jacko spoof "Beat It" should have won Best Rock Video, not Linkin Park. Anyway, the guys stand there like regular dudes while the paparazzi yell at them for not posing more creatively. Further proof that the paparazzi are scumbags. I'm just sayin'.
7:19pm - Video Of The Year underdogs the Ting Tings perform "Shut Up And Let Me Go." Their performance only gets about 23 seconds of airtime, which is indicative of their chances of winning over Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls, and the Jonas Brothers. I root for them anyway.
7:23pm - Slipknot introduce the Best Hip-Hop Video (why???) with Chris Mintz of Superbad, and Chris drops the F-bomb. Oops. Thank gawd for seven-second delays, huh?
7:26pm - Before introducing a T.I./Rihanna performance, a seemingly miffed Jordin Sparks defends the Jonas Brothers' wearing of promise rings, saying, "Not everyone wants to be a slut!" Daaammmn. I brace myself for a Russell Brand rebuttal later in the broadcast. I can't wait!
7:37pm - Christina Aguilera performs a techno remake of "Genie In A Bottle" in leather S&M garb, looking like Lady GaGa--indicating that she's abandoned her '40s-retro schtick and is back to being dirrty. It's about time!
7:42pm - Russell Brand semi-apologizes for his promise-ring comments, but manages to allude to R. Kelly's golden-shower scandal in the process. The Jonases don't seem that amused. But I am!
7:52pm - Britney's "Piece Of Me" wins Best Pop Video. Yep, it's Britney's night. There's a lot of good will in the room and everyone seems genuinely happy for her. Could this be the confirmation of the Britney comeback we've been hearing about for, like, two years now? That's what the press release says, so it must be so!
7:54pm - LL Cool J comes backstage, fresh from his great "Goin' Back To Cali" performance. A fight breaks out between two photographers jockeying for a better shot of LL's famously pumped-up pecs. Usually it's ladies fighting over LL, so this is a switch.
7:58pm - Paris Hilton and Benji Madden come backstage, and all hell loose breaks loose in the photo pit. The free food is practically flying and everyone elbows for position. These photographers are worse than the tween girls who chased after the Jonas Brothers during their "Love Bug" performance. But Paris gives the paps what they want--she's a real pro at this posing stuff, and no one complains in this case. Just FYI, though--she is NOT prettier in person. And her nose is kind of wonky, too.
8:08pm - Danity Kane come backstage. It takes everyone a moment to realize that it's not just the Pussycat Dolls returning in different outfits.
8:12pm - Britney Spears wins Video Of The Year. She doesn't seem surprised, and neither am I.
8:15pm - Kanye West, who won nothing tonight, closes the show. I wait for him to start complaining about being shut out--like he did last year--but instead he takes the high road (the road less traveled for him) and just entertains with an uncharacteristically subdued performance.
8:16pm - It's announced that Britney's finally heading backstage. The photographers scream like an Oprah audience on a giveaway episode. Then Chris Brown shows up backstage instead. People groan with disappointment. One photographer yells at him, "Where's Rihanna?" Man, how can they be BUMMED that CHRIS BROWN is here? Like I said, the paparazzi are scumbags. Especially the one snapper I get in an argument with about whether or not Russell Brand is funny. She doesn't think so. She is wrong.
8:22pm - Britney finally shows up, attempting to juggle her three trophies. Chaos ensues and I begin to understand why she went insane and shaved her head. I would too, if I had this many flashbulbs in my face every frickin' day.
8:51pm - Russell Brand finally makes it backstage, and all arguments about his alleged funniness are settled once and for all (in my mind, at least) as he speaks to the press. Here's Russell in all his hilariously un-PC glory, and let's hope he's back to host in 2009: