The biggest winners turned out to be MIAs at the 30th annual AMAs, including Eminem, winner of a leading four American Music Awards.
Others absent when their names were called at Monday night’s American Music Awards were the bands Creed and the Dixie Chicks, who won two awards apiece.
Tim McGraw, who sang a “Tiny Dancer” duet with Elton John at the start of the nationally televised show, left for Nashville before winning favorite male country artist, and Mary J. Blige – another absentee – was named favorite female hip-hop artist.
Eminem won in every category in which he was nominated, for favorite hip-hop and pop-rock male artist and favorite hip-hop and pop-rock album.
Creed was honored for favorite rock group and alternative performance, and the Dixie Chicks won for favorite country band and country album for “Home.”
R&B ingenue Ashanti – who did attend the event – won two honors for favorite new hip-hop/R&B artist and new pop artist.
“Definitely got to say, thank God for giving me the strength to do this,” said Ashanti, best known for the singles “Foolish” and “Happy.”
She entered the competition with a leading five nominations, including two in categories Eminem won, favorite pop/rock album and favorite hip-hop/R&B album.
The rapper, recognized for his album “The Eminem Show,” designated his “8 Mile” co-star Mekhi Phifer to accept the hip-hop prize on his behalf.
“Hey y’all, this is Eminem on the phone!” Phifer said as he carried a cell phone onstage after the rapper’s first win.
The show, broadcast on ABC, was hosted by the frequently foul-mouthed Ozzy Osbourne and his family – wife, Sharon, and children Kelly and Jack – who gave network censors a workout.
The family’s four-letter words were bleeped throughout the show, so much so during their opening introduction that it was hard for television viewers to follow what they were saying. Sharon Osbourne in particular kept up a running banter of outrageous comments.
At the beginning of the show she teased former pop sweethearts Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake about their breakup, telling Spears, “I’m going to have to take him, Britney.”
Later, she got Timberlake to kiss her dog when the two presented an award together, and she joked about adjusting her wig, an apparent reference to the side-effects of her recent colon cancer treatment.
When she let the F-word slip out at one point, her husband laughed and shouted, “You can’t take the (bleeping) lady anywhere anymore!”
Aimee Osbourne, the rarely seen daughter who doesn’t take part in her family’s reality TV show, “The Osbournes,” had been scheduled to make the award presentation with Timberlake. She backed out over the weekend, show publicist Paul Shefrin said.
Other award-winners included Sheryl Crow who accepted her favorite female pop-rock artist award with a plea for peace, arriving on stage in a T-shirt that read, “War is not the answer.”
The singer of “Soak Up the Sun” said afterward she had the shirt made as her statement against a possible war with Iraq.
Later, introducing a duet by Toby Keith and Willie Nelson, she told the audience: “Hey everybody, I know this is an award show but I just want to encourage everybody to get involved in some kind of movement for peace.”
Alabama, which took home the Award of Merit, had one of its biggest fans for a presenter – former President George Bush, who made a taped announcement.
“I’m very proud to be part of tonight’s tribute honoring one of the most highly successful bands country music has ever known,” Bush said. “Their name tells you a lot about them: their birthplace, their close family ties, their respect for traditional artists and music, their courage to bring new ideas to country music, and most of all, their lifelong love of home, state and country.”
Other performers included Mariah Carey, whose emotional breakdown was recounted in images of news reports flashed across a screen before she came on stage to perform her perseverance ballad, “Through the Rain.” One newspaper headline read, “When you fall down, you get back up.”
Another performer was Christina Aguilera, modestly dressed compared with some of the flesh-baring outfits she’s been wearing as she has promoted her album “Stripped.”
Comedian David Spade introduced her by saying, “Here she is for the first time in public with her clothes on, Christina Aguilera!”