David Wild has written for the GRAMMY Awards since 2001. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, a blogger for Huffington Post and an Emmy-nominated TV writer. Wild's most recent book, He Is…I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond, is now in paperback. Follow him on Twitter.
They say that you never forget your first time.
The first GRAMMY show that I ever worked on started with a call just days before the 43rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, which took place on Feb. 21, 2001. It was so late that when Co-Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich called and asked if I'd like to work on the GRAMMYs, I said, "You mean this year?" Of course, I then added, "Yes sir, please." The planned show host had dropped out rather late in the process, and I came on board roughly the same time host-to-be Jon Stewart — already becoming one of my comedy heroes — agreed to host the show.
The next few days were an utterly thrilling blur of activity. What I couldn't tell Ken was that I already had a project that I was working on in Santa Monica for a few of those days, so for the next 48 hours I spent lots of time secretly driving back and forth on the 10 freeway between Santa Monica and Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles like some cad in a '60s movie trying to keep dates with two different women in different apartments. Still, it all worked out beautifully. I remember Jon invited a not-yet ultra famous Jimmy Kimmel in to help us with jokes, and being thrilled to even be in the same room brainstorming with those two. I also recall being stunned with the scale of the production that Co-Executive Producer John Cossette and his team were mounting in Staples Center. And I remember being blown away by all the talent being brought together for Music's Biggest Night.
In particular for the 43rd show, there was lots of excitement and controversy when it came to the surprising collaboration between Eminem and Elton John. Back then, a year before 8 Mile made him a mainstream figure, Eminem was plenty controversial on his own, so it was a brilliant artistic, and PR, move to have Sir Elton John, openly gay and beloved, appear with this great younger artist who had been accused of being both homophobic and sexist. In the end, the moment was both healing and a testament to the power of music to bring people together — in other words, everything that the GRAMMYs are really all about.
So how was my first time? Well, it was good — make that great — for me.
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