Tag Archives: Usher

Backstage Secrets, Dick Clark — Producer Larry Klein Looks Back at 40 Years of American Music Awards

Larry Klein and Christina Aguilera

The 40th Annual American Music Awards will mark the passing of its creator and godfather, Dick Clark, with a tribute to the TV Academy and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who died this past April.  However, “It’s not going to be a long, drawn-out thing,” promises producer Larry Klein. “It will be short and sweet.  That’s the way Dick would have wanted it.”

Klein would be the man to know.  He’s been working on the show since he got work as a production assistant on the very first AMAs. Even after Clark sold his company a decade ago, along with the American Music Awards show, Klein says no year would pass without his getting together with best buddy Dick and chatting about the event. 

This year’s show will feature performances by some 17 chart-toppers, including Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Usher, No Doubt, Nicki Minaj, Pink, Carrie Underwood, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera and Linkin Park.  Bieber is up for three awards this year including Artist of the Year.  Bieber’s mentor, Usher, is also in the running with three nominations and the two will face off against each other in the category for Favorite Male Artist: Pop/Rock.  Rihanna  and Minaj lead the nominees with four nods apiece. Drake, Maroon 5 and One Direction have three nominations each.

Things have changed a lot, notes Klein, from the days when the likes of Helen Reddy and John Denver would “would come in and ask, ‘What should I sing?’  What does Dick want me to do?’  Now, I walk in and say, ‘I’m the producer.  Just tell me what you want,’” says Klein with a laugh. 

The special anniversary edition of the AMAs will bring us some highlights of their storied history, such as Prince’s Purple Reign prancing, Michael Jackson’s thrilling moves, and Axl Rose’s unprintable acceptance speech.  Not surprisingly, some of the moments Klein finds most memorable took place off camera.  There have been gargantuan backstage clashes, talent that had to be kept in dressing rooms that were far apart and all that sort of thing, he cheerfully acknowledges, refusing to name names.  And there’ve been heart-stopping near-misses and eleventh-hour changes.  Klein recalls that “a few years ago, the person who opened the show, at the five second mark was not on her mark – through no fault of her own.  She was supposed to be in a container, but there had been problems with it, and when the countdown started, I realized she was behind me.” 

That performer was Mariah Carey, and she did manage to whisk into the egg-shaped, spinning container at the very last second, and start the awards.  “Thank God she had the stage presence to keep her cool.  She could have freaked out,” Klein says. 

  Even though they’ll be glancing back, however, the 40th awards will be focused on today.  Klein says that every one of the 17 acts that will be performing will have its own environment.  “That’s one of the things that sets us apart.  Because of me wanting every artist to have their own atmosphere, their own look – nothing repeated — we have carts containing set pieces stretching out for six to eight blocks in downtown L.A. on show day.”  This year, he says, viewers will get to see some of the backstage action.

The hardest part must be squeezing in everything they want to do.  How does Klein manage?  “We just do it, “ he says.

In ‘Toy Story 3’ and in Hollywood, it’s Cool to be Metro to the Max

By Emily-Fortune Feimster

Who’da thunk it?  The Ken doll was actually ahead of his time.  “Toy Story 3,” with Ken voiced by Michael Keaton, confirms what we all intuited long ago — the fact that this doll is… a metrosexual.

In case you hadn’t heard, “metrosexual” is a word to describe a fella who’s proudly concerned with his appearance, from his gelled hairdo to his manicured fingernails. A term first coined in 1994 by British journalist Mark Simpson, the metrosexual male, unlike his scruffy haired, t-shirt wearing counterpart, knows how to moisturize, shop, and behave in public.  He’d rather sip a glass of wine than down a 12-pack of beer.  And like Ken, he revels in having a walk-in closet full of stylish outfits.  It’s a phenomenon that confuses women and affects gaydar.

Just ask Ryan Seacrest, the mother of all metrosexuals.  He always wears fashionable clothes, has frosted hair, and normally a well-groomed 5 o’clock shadow. When asked by Larry King if it’s fair for people to call him a metrosexual, Seacrest responded, “Yes, I’m fine with it. I think it’s cool…I’ve made it no secret that I’ve highlighted my hair, and I’ve just — I’ve done these things that I never knew how to do until, when you start a TV show, you have somebody that helps you with things. I think it’s OK for a man to say, I want to take care of myself and be presentable for a woman in my life.” Riiiight.

Soccer icon David Beckham has been known for getting manicures before every match, changing his hair weekly and loving to shop. In fact, he and his Spice Girl wife Victoria, dubbed “Posh and Becks,” seem to enjoy wearing color coordinated outfits at many public events. Gillette gave Beckham a $50,000 diamond-encrusted razor so he can keep a clean shave at all times. He paints his nails and wears sarongs. He goes to the hair salon to get perfect highlights. What’s more, he doesn’t care if you know that. Among his favorite designers are Gucci, Prada, Diesel and Dolce & Gabbana, not to mention his earning around $1,757,000 for modeling Police sunglasses. He does sport the odd diamond earring worth around $12,300, an $87,850 wedding ring, and a limited edition white-gold Panerai watch.  It’s enough to make Ken jealous.

Always dressed to the nines on the red carpet, Australian actor Hugh Jackman made his mark with American movie audiences as the hairy, scary mutant superhero “Wolverine.” But we saw a different side of the man as the high-spirited, high-stepping Peter Allen in the Broadway show, “The Boy from Oz.” This wasn’t the first production for Jackman, who earned his spurs in musical theater, playing Curly in the West End London production of “Oklahoma.” Despite having an affinity for musical theatre, you definitely know a guy’s a metrosexual when he’s prettier than his wife. He’s married to actress/director Debra Lee Furness, who happens to be eight years older. Also, forget the hamburgers and chicken wings – his favorite food is sushi.

Will Smith started out as a rapper who wore big t-shirts and baggy shorts, but his machismo seems to have fallen down a few notches after making fluffy films like “Hitch” and doing that silly dance in his “Switch” video. Not your typical hip-hop artist, he avoids using profanity and is good to his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.  The two are usually decked out in designer duds, which happen to be color coordinated with each other.

Dave Navarro may be covered in tattoos but he’s no ordinary rocker. After all, how many times do you see guys like Tommy Lee traveling with Louise Vuitton luggage? No stranger to a nail salon, this guy takes more time to get ready than his wife Carmen Electra and even uses way more eyeliner. Not to mention the fact that he was way too into their wedding planning. Nothing’s more entertaining than watching a leather-clad, Satan-esque rocker talking about flower arrangements and making sure the bouquet matches his suit.

P. Diddy  is so concerned with fashion, he inaugurated his own highly-successful line.

Usher is often dressed in unbelievably expensive designer suits, he’s no stranger to wearing dainty gloves, and he’s always seen sporting his diamond stud earrings. He takes enormously good care of his body, doing over 1,000 crunches a day to keep those rock hard abs. He’s even the first to admit that he’s one of the biggest momma’s boys in the business.

The same goes for Justin Timberlake, who called his mom and almost cried the day he got “Punk’d” by Ashton Kutcher.  Though gone are the days of him wearing an all denim suit with a matching hat underneath his neatly gelled, curly hair, this is one guy who is meticulous about his appearance.

Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are as much models as they are actors, welcoming the female gazes like the walking billboards they’ve become. Their million dollar smiles have made them cultural icons. Both look modernly sleek atop their crotch rocket motorcycles. The picture of how Brad looked at the “Along Came Polly” premiere, where he was wearing a navy blue suit with a matching scarf , stays emblazoned in the mind – it looked very metro. His bottle blonde ‘do was the antithesis of his old skuzzy look.

Though he has more of a Bohemian style, Jude Law is a metrosexual in that he’s more of the sensitive, soft-spoken, artsy type. He’s been into drama since he was a child, having started acting at age 12 with the National Youth Music Theatre. You’re more likely to find this vegetarian/yoga guy at a poetry reading than a boxing match any day.

Which brings us to everyone’s favorite “Dancing With the Stars” ballroom dancing heavyweight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield.

The hit show has surely advanced the metro trend. Joey McIntyre proved his terpsichorean artistry and looked metro hot in his toreador dance outfit. John proudly wore puffy shirts that would have had his old “Seinfeld” cohorts doing double takes while wowing the “Dancing” judges. Hey, having silver hair – especially the gorgeously groomed kind like John’s – doesn’t exclude you from being metro.

You think he gets it that way without a rinse? Come on.

Yes, the “Dancing With the Stars” list of ballroom boys is chockablock with metrosexual hotties – Gilles Marini, Evan Lysacek, Helio Castroneves, to name a few.

Considering all that, Perhaps Mattel ought to give Sugar’s Daddy Ken a rethink.  The pink polo shirt ‘n’ green patterned jacket-clad dolly never made it to market after an internet brouhaha last year, but we think his time has come.

— With Stacy Jenel Smith