A report from the audience at MTV's VMAs -- When Justin danced, Axl cranked it, and Eminem was booed, Ken Tucker and his daughter Hayley had mostly different reactions

A report from the audience at MTV’s VMAs

Hey, how ’bout that Axl Rose, eh? Can the guy still bleat and scamper around the stage or what? Did you even make it to that point in last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, or did you give up around the time ‘N Sync’s Justin Timberlake started doing the Michael Jackson dance steps and falsetto singing that the King of Pop himself declines to grant us these days? The big closing surprise of last night was a tad underwhelming to my plus one at the VMAs: my trusty teenage daughter, whom I bring along for a different perspective and unerring audience identification of obscure ”Real World” and ”Road Rules” seat-fillers. (Hayley spotted Chicago ”Real World”’s Kyle and Aneesa five rows ahead of us in Radio City Music Hall before host Jimmy Fallon had even taken the stage.)

Hayley, who’s 17 and therefore was 2 years old when Axl and a slightly different bunch of guys than the ones onstage last night put out ”Appetite for Destruction” in 1987, thought the football-jerseyed Guns ‘N’ Roses lead singer was ”loud” and ”a little sad,” asking, ”How old is that guy?” I know, kids today — no respect for their elders. But that’s part of what rock & roll is about, I suppose: One generation’s Axl is another’s Eminem. (If you think I’m stretching the point, remember that Axl’s been accused of homophobia, too, something Eminem suddenly seemed very sensitive about last night, when Robert Smigel’s marvelously rude Triumph the Insult Dog tried to bring up Em’s calling Moby an insulting name for ”homosexual” on his latest CD. In a blast of live-TV unexpectedness, Eminem stood up and pushed Smigel’s puppet away from Moby in mid-routine, and later referred to ”that Moby-girl.” Nice: The winner of Video of the Year, Best Male Video, and other awards thinks that gays and women are objects of calumny. If you heard booing through your TV speakers, I was among the voices.)

Anyway, Hayley and I agreed that the White Stripes were the coolest humans in the cavernous hall; and that he Hives put on the most energetic, funniest, most exhilarating performance (the supposed ”battle of the bands” with the Vines was no contest as far as we were concerned). Hayley really liked Shakira’s rump rippling performance in a way a fellow my age is not supposed to; and we agreed to disagree that Britney Spears’ outfit (in leather cap, leather skirt, and S&M lace-up stilettos) was ”pretty ugly” (Hayley’s term) or ”pretty funny” (mine). Both of us thought the most amusing line of the night came not from host Fallon — who, to give him credit, had a LOT of funny lines, especially his skewering of ”American Idol” creep-hosts Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman — but from Michael Jackson, accepting some ridiculous Artist of the Millenium award as if he were getting a lifetime-achievement Oscar, thanking magician David Blaine by saying, ”Your magic is real and I believe in you.”

When Hayley took a trip to the restroom, she returned to report that ”some older guy with long blond hair” was being interviewed just outside the men’s room, and a few minutes later, when David Lee Roth shambled onto the stage, she said, ”That’s the guy!” Roth and his copresenter Sammy Hagar proved their worthlessness (as if it needed proving after this past summer’s dueling Fired Van Halen Lead Singer tour) by announcing proudly that they didn’t know a single song by the winner they were anointing, Linkin Park.

On the other hand, Hayley was able to point out Willa Ford in the audience (I wouldn’t have known her from Gerald Ford, I admit) but I get to play Liz Smith gossip-item provider by informing you that, when former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was introduced, his ex-wife, Donna Hanover, seated a mere aisle away from us, REFUSED TO CLAP (you read it here first, kids).

As for show-opening Bruce Springsteen, I admit to a twinge of disappointment that the guy wasn’t in the Radio City house, but instead broadcast in mid-concert somewhere else, so we had to look at him on the screens in the concert hall. But Hayley pointed out that this was an MTV production, and MTV is all about looking at performers on small screens anyway, right? She was right. She also thought ”The Rising” was ”exciting” — that is, until she spotted Donatella Versace striding down the aisle while the Boss sang his heart out. Versace trumped Springsteen for in-the-flesh celebrity. And speaking of trump, Hayley also spotted the Donald himself at the VMAs. I said, ”How did you recognize Donald Trump?” ”He’s on all those billboards on the way to the [Jersey] shore,” she said, with the wisdom of youth.

So, what’s on your list of the show’s high and low points?