Grammys: Janet, Justin In; Luther Out

By | February 5, 2004 at 12:00 AM

The Grammy RSVPs are in and it looks like the boobylicious Super Bowl tandem of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are still on the guest list, but Luther Vandross will be MIA.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Grammys, told E! Tuesday that “as of right now, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are still on the Grammys.

“If we took everyone who is controversial off the show, no one would perform.”

The remark came in the wake of CBS affiliates asking the network to broadcast Sunday’s Grammy Awards on a slight delay in case of any language slips or wardrobe malfunctions.

CBS, of course, broadcast the Super Bowl halftime show that featured Jackson’s brazier-bursting duet with Timberlake on “Rock Your Body.” The Boobgate incident sparked thousands of complaints from viewers and an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, whose chairman called it an outrage and promised heavy fines for those responsible, namely CBS and MTV, which produced the halftime show.

The New York Post reports that CBS could still eject the two singers from the Grammy telecast should the network learn that Jackson and Timberlake conspired to reveal her pierced nipple to the world.

MTV and CBS immediately issued statements saying the stunt was unplanned and accidental. Jackson has admitted that she and Timberlake concocted the stunt on their own, and he was only supposed to rip off only the upper layer of her vinyl dominatrix get-up, revealing a red bra underneath. Timberlake called it a “wardrobe malfunction,” and Jackson, said, “It was not my intention that it go as far as it did.”

“We were really ripped off. We were punk’d by Janet Jackson,” MTV CEO Tom Freston said Tuesday during a panel discussion with other media execs.

The chances of Jackson’s breast reprising its appearance at the Grammys are slim, however. Jackson is only slated to be a presenter at the Grammys. Timberlake will perform solo, which should cut down on the bodice-ripping potential.

As for Vandross, the smooth-operating soulster, currently in physical rehab after being stricken by a near-fatal stroke last April, was hoping to recover in time to appear at the show, where he’s nominated for five awards, including Album of the Year for Dance with My Father. But after consulting with physicians, Vandross decided that his health ultimately came first.

“It would have been a tremendous moment for Luther to attend the Grammy Awards this year,” business manager Carmen Romano said in a statement. “But on the advice of his doctors, I regret to say that Luther won’t be able to make this trip.”

The 52-year-old crooner was found unconscious in his Manhattan apartment on April 16, 2003. He had made tremendous strides in recent months, improving so much that he even has managed to sing a bit when pal Patti LaBelle visited him in the hospital, something Romano called a “modern-day miracle.”

Although he has been sidelined, Vandross has remained a vital musical force. Dance with My Father debuted atop the charts in June and won him two American Music Awards in November, which his mother, Mary, accepted on his behalf.

Despite his absence, Vandross will definitely be at the Grammys in spirit. Show producers have recruited Alicia Keys, Celine Dion and Richard Marx for a Vandross tribute. The trio will perform two of the singer’s greatest hits.

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