The front row had models Lauren Hutton, Molly Simms, Chuck D, Russell Simmons (Def Jam records, Phat Farm), Nick Butterworth (MTVi) and Sandra Bernhard. Just behind them were judges, sponsors and other luminaries in the Music and Online world. I looked up at the red gilded ceiling and walls, rich in history and stories despite their decay.
And what, pray tell, was the occasion to bring together such a glittery group of people? The third Annual Yahoo! Internet Life Music Awards,that's what!
As I graced the red-carpeted entrance, I was directed inside to collect myticket. Martha Stewart was upstairs in the VIP room talking with her contingent, and Extra, CNN and Metro were all lined up waiting to talk with the stars as they arrived. As I was walking in, I chatted with Barry Golson (Yahoo! Internet Life editor-in-chief), Ron Bel Bruno (Y!IL senior editor), Jesse Jacobs (event consultant) and Diane Stefani (Y!IL public relations director). I saw Simon Nuchtern, who produced the video for this night's production, and his wife, Anna, who wore a fabulous blue-green dress with impressive arm and neck bangles.
John Roderick of the Rosen Group introduced me to Scott Dalton (warehouse coordinator, Express Autoparts.com). They'd just come from further inside the club, and it looked daunting... Nick Butterworth (president and CEO,MTVi) and I chatted as we braced ourselves for the charge inside. He told me that he hopes he doesn't have to go on after Prince, like he did last year. "That was a tough act to follow." I'll say. In fact, Prince didn't come this night, but he did create a classic Prince "thank you" video clip that played after he won the "Best Internet-Only Single" category.
Socialite Melissa Blau of Constellation Ventures introduced me to DuncanSheik, and we chatted for a bit with Mark Frieser of Gajin.com (and co-founder of Jupiter.com). Upstairs there were more fashionably attired women and men, now making there way to their seats. The show got started with John Leguizamo getting the crowd excited about the night. Aimee Mann(of her own band and Till Tuesday fame) sang two lovely ballads. Sandra Bernhard and her table were keeping up with the beat by dancing in their chairs. Lauren Hutton and Russell Simmons introduced the nominees for the Best Label Online. Astralwerks won, and the winner exclaimed, "this proves that one geek locked in a closet with no funding, no freelancers ... can create a major label." He thanked his staff and crew and those that made the label as strong as it is.
Doug Lyman and Andrea Davenport presented the Best Music Reference site --UBL.com. Most of the presenters, celebrities, musicians, and other well-know sorts struggled with the teleprompter. I'm not sure if they were goofing at it, but it was pretty ridiculous. Two representatives from the Cavern Club thanked Paul McCartney when he was announced as the winner for the Best Live Music Event online. As one of the recipients said, it was the largest Internet show online in the smallest club in the world."Leguizamo managed to associate one of the two presenters for almost every round with Madonna and oral sex. Kurt Loder and Sandra Bernhard presented nominees for the Best Artist Site. She hugged David Bowie when he came on stage to accept his award for BowieNet. Bowie said that being in Studio 54 brought back many memories, but that "this was the first time he'd seen this place from a vertical position."
Issac Hayes came out and sang two classics: "Never can say goodbye" and "Walk on By." The stunning triple-threat (actor/dancer/singer) Bebe Neuworth came on stage with the stunning triple-threat(editor-in-chief/boss/leader) Barry Golson to announce the Best Music News Sites. The winners from Billboard were shocked based on the placement of their seats (third-level balcony). Chuck D announced the Best-Unsigned Band -- Red Delicious, who promptly thanked their fans and asked if there was anymore wine. Betsy and Lulu Johnson, the mother-daughter fashion duo, announced the nominees for the Best Fan Site. Betsy -- all dolled up complete in her orange-top poof and sparkly rhinestone baubles, and Luluin her tall, elegant black classic attire, announced the winner -- Painful Convictions, which is Nine Inch Nails's fan site. Yahoo! Internet Life publisher Andrew Kramer came out for a "commercial break," and then Alanis Morissette belted out two numbers, sitting on a stool in a simple purple knit top and slacks. B. Smith and Isaac Hayes announced the Best Internet Only Single (see above for winner), and Russell Simmons and Molly Simms announced the Best Internet-Only Album: Aimee Mann. Aimee proclaimed "God bless the Internet because it's the only way singers like me can make a living." Singer Duncan Sheik and actress Claudia Schearer were the presenters for Best Overall Music Site. Nicholas Butterworth and Jim DePalma of Sonicnet, the winner, stated they "love the people, the winner, stated they "love the people who come to our site. Chuck D, the 1999Online Pioneer, introduced the 2000 Online Pioneer -- David Bowie.
Bowie, whose image and music has transformed over the decades, was always meant to be online, in my opinion. With the creativity and vision he's brought to his work in music and to his endeavors online, he truly is an online pioneer in many ways. BowieNet is the first artist-branded ISP and music site to have a 3D virtual chat environment. There are numerous community features, including diary entries from Bowie, rare music exclusives, recordings and videos. He came out and serenaded us with two ballads and then said, in his thank you acceptance speech "We'll just keep trying. We'll just keep trying to never bore you."
The ceremony ended, and the after-party kicked up. I chatted with Robert Thomason (Washington Post) and Lance Funkhouser (WearAer) afterwards about Bowie's performance and the scope of talent during the night. Not everyone was so impressed with the show, and before Marisa Bowe (Word) and CarlSwanson (New York) stepped out, I chatted with them briefly. William Berlind (The New York Observer) was also far from star-struck, and I chatted with Kelly Ryan (I-Hatch.com) and her husband, Wayne Chavez, (CEO,Chief Customer Advocate, SmartCasual.com) on their way out. Hamptons Country magazine Managing Editor Cindi Cook and her friend Jeff Vikari looked sharp and fashionable, and David Lauren (Ralph Lauren's oldest son)also slithered past the youngsters waiting to see a celeb.
Having been to a few awards shows myself, I understand the challenging aspects of streamlined production. And I think Yahoo! Internet Life put on a good show. When you're bringing together music and fashion celebrities, when you're in the historic Studio 54, when you're putting on a live webcast -- sure there are bound to be glitches. But I love being a part of all these histories in the making.