MIAMI – The white carpet. The fashion challenge. The pimp makeover. The multiple outfits.
Even though the newly named Diddy (search) wasn't nominated for any awards and didn't rap one verse on stage, the hip-hop impresario dominated Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards (search) as host of the festivities.
Green Day (search) was the big winner, capturing seven of the eight awards they were nominated for — including video of the year, best rock video and the viewer's choice award. And before the awards began, MTV dodged two major disasters — Hurricane Katrina, which hit southern Florida on Thursday and killed several people, and the shooting of rap mogul Suge Knight (search) at a Kanye West (search) pre-awards party.
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But it was Diddy who demanded the most attention, beginning with an entrance featuring a troupe of dancers, pyrotechnics and a cascading waterfall — a spectacle that rivaled the show's actual performances.
"The theme of tonight is, anything can happen," proclaimed Diddy during the first of many scene-stealing moments — handing what appeared to be a diamond-encrusted watch to a fan in the audience.
Other Diddy moments: "conducting" a string orchestra during a tribute to his protege, the late Notorious B.I.G.; a naked Diddy baby picture; and a dance-off with Omarion and a posse of strip-club dancers.
There were certainly other memorable Diddy-free moments, although no true shockers like the Britney-Madonna smooch.
MC Hammer recaptured some of his past glory while performing his '90s hit, "U Can't Touch This." Ludacris managed to turn his hedonistic "Pimpin' All Over the World" into a multicultural Mardi Gras-like extravaganza, complete with steel drummers, African dancers and, of course, around-the-way booty-shaking girls.
Speaking of booty, Eva Longoria of showed hers — and a lot more — with a skimpy one-piece pink bathing suit that featured a plunging neckline reminiscent of J.Lo back when she was dating a guy named Puff Daddy.
"Hey Diddy, you said anything goes, and I wasn't going to let a little hurricane prevent me from wearing my bathing suit!" said the "Desperate Housewives" star.
Not to be outdone, Paulina Rubio wore a skintight lace Dolce & Gabbana vintage gown that showed off her thong. She calmly eluded the reaching arm of co-presenter Lil Jon.
Kelly Clarkson, who closed the awards with a rocking performance of "Since U Been Gone," won two awards, for best female and pop video. Also winning two awards were Missy Elliott, the Gorillaz and Stefani.
The evening's most inexplicable moment may have come from R. Kelly, who remains a chart-topper while awaiting trial on child pornography charges.
On a bedroom set that looked like a scene from a way-off-Broadway play, Kelly deliberately lip-synced highlights of his five-part soap opera infidelity song, "Trapped In The Closet," then debuted a new chapter involving a cheating wife, a cheating husband and his boyfriend.
Some of the night's more decadent moments came during the pre-show arrivals. Lil Jon came by sea on what looked to be a three-story, pimp-my-yacht contraption. The prison-bound Lil' Kim arrived on the white carpet in a Rolls Royce Phantom, though she looked somewhat demure in her low-cut mauve dress — no pasties or dangling appendages this year from the diminutive rapper.
"I might show some leg," teased the star, who is due to start serving a year-and-a-day sentence in September on a perjury conviction. When MTV personality Sway delicately asked if she had anything to say to fans who "might not see you for a while," Lil Kim said: "You can write me letters."
"Entourage" star Jeremy Piven couldn't help but tease Kim as they presented best rap video, which was won by Ludacris.
"You know, she's about to go to the big house, for lying," he said. "I'd like to place a call to the warden and upgrade your situation."
The much-hyped white carpet was one of one of the Diddy-designed elements of the show. Another was the "Diddy Fashion Challenge" — in which he vowed to give $50,000 each to the charities of the best dressed female and male at the event, won by Snoop and Stefani.
Diddy himself was out of the running, though you wouldn't know it — he made three wardrobe changes in the first half-hour alone.
Typically, the awards are more of an asterisk to a wild night than the main story. Green Day challenged that notion with their seven awards. They lost only one trophy, to Gwen Stefani, for best art direction.
Add in their stellar opening performance, wins by The Killers and Fall Out Boy, and a riveting performance by My Chemical Romance, and it seemed as if rock had finally outshone hip-hop and pop at the Video Music Awards after a few years in the background.
"It's great to know that rock music still has a place at MTV," said Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong.
But Pete Weintz of Fall Out Boy downplayed that angle.
"Whatever is going to happen is going to happen organically," he told The Associated Press backstage. "The return of rock doesn't mean anything else is going away."