Last-minute juggling until midnight Saturday will ensure a tribute to disco queen Donna Summer at today’s 2012 Billboard Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena airing on ABC. Her death this week from cancer prompted producers to shuffle the script, and the salute was still being worked on Saturday night.
Additionally, there will be a tribute to Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. The salutes to Donna and Adam are in addition to the long-planned emotional presentation of the Millennium Award to Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina when Jordin Sparks and John Legend perform with a full orchestra. John will sing “The Greatest Love of All,” and Jordin, who plays Whitney’s daughter in the upcoming film “Sparkle,” will sing “I Will Always Love You.”
Vegas DeLuxe has learned of amazing production elements being added to the BMAs: Expect a dazzling lighting backdrop and a knockout, show-closing duet with Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. (Stevie will be presented with the Icon Award by 10-time winner Alicia and saluted by stars onstage). Katy Perry will debut her single “Wide Awake” from her upcoming documentary “Part of Me.”
“American Idol” winners Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson have surprises planned. Gossips will be watching Justin Bieber’s arrival and performance to see if weekend reports of his romance crashing on the rocks with Selena Gomez are true. I don’t believe anything has gone awry.
But it may well be that singer-songwriter and soon-to-be Planet Hollywood headliner Cee Lo Green grabs the lion’s share of headlines again with his expected performance of “Fight to Win” interpreted by inspirational one-legged dancer Jean Sok, who is on tour with Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” spectacular. I first saw Jean at “Immortal’s” Montreal world premiere in October and again here during the Mandalay Bay Events Center run in December. To say that his dancing is an indelible image is an understatement. His remarkable talent will wow the world.
Other music superstars appearing include Chris Brown with his neon bike and acrobatic BMX stunt riders, Usher, Linkin Park, Nelly Furtado and Britain’s hot new boyband The Wanted, who have been all over Las Vegas this week and host their after-party at Lavo in the Palazzo tonight. Presenters include Charlie Sheen, Lisa Marie Presley, Miley Cyrus, Natasha Bedingfield, Whoopi Goldberg, Kris Kristofferson, Robin Thicke, Luke Bryan and “Dancing With the Stars” favorites Julianne Hough and our hometown Empress of Soul Gladys Knight.
Emmy Award winners Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” are the co-hosts, and nominees include Adele, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Lil Wayne, LMFAO, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Drake, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5, The Black Eyed Peas, Foster the People, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Scotty McCreery and Bad Meets Evil.
The music world is still in disbelief over Donna’s sudden death. She last performed here in Las Vegas at a “David Foster & Friends” concert at Mandalay Bay Events Center, and I was as mesmerized by her voice last fall as I was in the 1960s with her first record for my friend Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records.
David on Saturday said: “My wife Yolanda and I are in shock and truly devastated. Donna changed the face of pop culture forever. There is no doubt that music would sound different today if she had never graced us with her talent. She was a super-diva and a true superstar who never compromised when it came to her career or her family. She always did it with class, dignity, grace and zero attitude.
“Her extraordinary voice and musicianship were as relevant today as they were when she first singlehandedly led us into the ’80s with her undeniable mix of pop, rhythm, blues and soul. My Donna was all of that, but so much more. She was the most spectacular, considerate, constant, giving, generous and loving friend of 35 years. I am at a total loss trying to process this tragic news.”
Meantime, stars have found time between rehearsal schedules to hit the town. Lisa Marie Presley, husband Michael Lockwood and twins Harper and Finley watched “Viva Elvis” at Aria on Friday night. It was their second visit, and they went backstage to congratulate the cast and pose for a photograph.
Kelly Clarkson and John Legend dined separately at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill at MGM Grand, and Chris Brown and girlfriend Karrueche Tran were at Marquee in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to watch DJ pal Benny Benassi spin -- Chris jumped onstage to perform two unexpected songs.
Be sure to check back to Vegas DeLuxe for our coverage -- reports, photos and videos. Starting about 3 p.m., we will be on the red carpet, so follow along via Twitter -- @Robin_Leach. Finally, our thanks to Rachel Been and Alex Blumberg of Billboard for their photo gallery of Saturday’s rehearsals at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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