Last night, MTV used Brooklyn as a backdrop for its blowout Video Music Awards, drawing hundreds of A-listers to the Barclays Center to perform and pose while fans packed the streets outside.
The show had its moments that will no doubt be replayed approximately one bajillion times in the next few days: Katy Perry rocked Brooklyn Bridge Park like a boxer in a children’s fantasy book. ’N Sync reunited, if only for a minute. Li’l Kim came back from the career dead. Lady Gaga wore a seashell bra.
Meanwhile, The Brooklyn Paper was on the red carpet, in the arena, and in the streets, surveying the chaos and asking the hard questions of other, less fashionable celebrities — like exercise guru Richard Simmons, who we pressed for his take on the CitiBike bike share program.
Simmons: “CitiBike is a great idea but people need to be more careful.”
Quick to clarify that he was not anti-cyclist, Simmons continued, “They have to wear helmets and watch out because people are crazy drivers.”
We also asked Bushwick-based indie rockers New Politics to define the word “hipster.”
“A hipster is someone searching for something,” lead singer David Boyd said. “He doesn’t know exactly what his position is, and it’s sort of a mix of a rebel trying to be different but at the same time trying to fit in.”
The description rang a bell.
“That sounds a lot like me,” guitarist Soren Hansen said.
The red carpet spanned the width of Sixth Avenue and MTV executives placed model Brooklyn Bridge arches at the entrance and lined the carpeted block with fake brick walls and street lights, just in case attendees forgot where they were. Brooklynites gone show-biz were happy to return for the occasion.
“I love that the show is in Brooklyn,” said Bensonhurst native and “Mob Wives” star Renee Graziano.
Some neighbors of the Barclays Center shared her enthusiasm.
“It’s awesome,” said Nilsa Grin, a 40-year resident of Bergen Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues. Part of Grin’s block was barricaded by police, who required identification to enter, but the excitement mattered more to her than the inconvenience.
“Who would have thought this would happen in our part of Brooklyn?” Grin asked.
Others complained that the crowds were too much, taking particular issue with those among the thousands gathered around the arena who took to the nearby residential area to party.
“Heard loud noise in front of the house,” May Taliaferrow wrote on Twitter. “Found VMA guest inside my neighbor’s gate smoking weed.”
The crowd thinned as the awards show got under way and, despite big hype about this being the first time it filmed in Brooklyn, the banter was light on borough references. What it lacked in Brooklyn homilies, the awards show made up for with constant visual and musical nods, including spins of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and Notorious BIG’s “Where Brooklyn At.” Commercial breaks were punctuated with video transitions that looked like slick, updated versions of the intro to Welcome Back, Kotter.
The grand finale was Katy Perry’s massive production at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, which we saw coming from a mile away.
On Saturday, hype for the awards show struck a Bushwick block where several media outlets said Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Justin Timberlake were going to perform a secret show. Hundreds stood in the sun all afternoon on Troutman Street between Wyckoff and Saint Nicholas avenues, hopeful for a glimpse of the pop trinity. The big three never showed, but the rumors were a boon for neighborhood bars and beer stores.
“Spent all afternoon in Bushwick waiting for Beyonce, Jay-Z, and JT to play on this rooftop,” Ashley Glynn wrote on Twitter. “But they never showed up, so now I’m getting drunk.”
— Nathan Tempey, Natalie Musumeci, and Will Bredderman