Bet Awards get under way with Michael Jackson’s legacy honored in song and costumes

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP
Monday, June 29, 2009

BET Awards honor Michael Jackson’s legacy

LOS ANGELES — The BET Awards became the official Michael Jackson TV celebration on Sunday, as the show kicked off with joyous tributes to the King of Pop, from a New Edition-Jackson 5 medley to Jamie Foxx’s monologue, delivered in that classic red leather zipper jacket and white glove.

Joe Jackson, the singer’s father, was on hand to represent the family. “I just wish he could be here to celebrate himself,” he said. “Sadly, he’s not here, so I’m here to celebrate for him.”

Already an affair of major star wattage, the night’s show was thrown under a white-hot spotlight in the wake of Jackson’s death Thursday, adding attendees and guests, doubling the number of media requests and even lengthening the red carpet to accommodate all who want to take part.

“No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man … We gonna go through all of Michael Jackson,” said Foxx, who came out on stage and re-enacted the choreography from Jackson’s iconic “Beat It” video in front of the star-studded crowd, on its feet from the start of the show.

“There was one thing that this man did that I always wanted to do, and I’m gonna do it tonight. I’m gonna moonwalk,” he said. “I hope I can make it.”

It wasn’t perfect, but it captured the memories of Jackson that the A-list audience shared.

Producers of the annual awards show — which recognizes the best in music, acting and sports — say they scrapped their plans and revamped the show to meet the moment. While Beyonce and T.I. were the leading award nominees with five apiece, giving out trophies was an afterthought: Honoring Jackson was became the show’s main focus.

“It’s a total overhaul,” network Chairwoman Debra L. Lee said. “Luckily we have enough time to do that.”

New Edition, the 1980s teen sensations who were considered that generation’s Jackson 5 with their own version of bubble-gum soul, ran through several of the Jackson 5’s greatest hits, from “I Want You Back” to “ABC,” mirroring their idols right down to the group’s original choreography. Ne-Yo sang one of Jackson’s most sensual songs, “Lady in my Life.”

And winners acknowledged Jackson when they received their awards.

“We all know none of us in this in this room wouldn’t be here for Michael Jackson,” said Lil Wayne, as he picked up his award for best male hip-hop star.

“My heart and prayers go out to the whole Jackson family,” said basketball star LeBron James, who won best male athlete. “What they did for us, … for the whole world was amazing.”

AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen and AP writers Alicia Quarles and Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.

will not be displayed