June 29, 2005

Rapper Kanye West leads no-shows at BET Awards

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West was the onlymultiple winner at the BET Awards on Tuesday, but did not turnup to accept his two prizes at the fifth annual celebration ofblack music and sports, and most of the other honorees alsowere no-shows.

West won the male hip-hop and video of the year categories,and would have enjoyed a clean sweep if fellow absentee DonnieMcClurkin had not beaten him for best gospel artist.

Other no-shows included Usher (male R&B), Jamie Foxx(actor), Regina King (actress), Shaquille O'Neal (maleathlete), and Serena Williams (female athlete). Also missingwas actor Denzel Washington who, with his wife Pauletta, wasgiven a humanitarian award.

Despite rumors of a surprise appearance, Michael Jacksondid not turn up, in what would have been his first TV outingsince he was acquitted of child molestation charges two weeksago. Four of his brothers were listed on the productionschedule but only Tito represented the troubled clan, brieflythanking fans for their support.

Hip-hop ingenue Ciara, who led the field with fournominations, went home with one prize, for best collaborationwith Missy Elliott on the song "1, 2 Step."

Besides West, R&B newcomer John Legend and soon-to-disbandtrio Destiny's Child also had three nominations, and both alsomade one trip to the stage, for best new artist and best group,respectively. Remy Martin won the female hip-hop category, andAlicia Keys won for best female R&B.

The three-and-a-half-hour event kicked off with a reunionof the Fugees, the Grammy-winning hip-hop group that neverfollowed up its hit 1996 album, "The Score," in part because ofthe short-lived solo success of singer Lauryn Hill.

Backstage, member Pras alluded to long-standing tensionswith fellow Fugees Hill and Wyclef Jean, saying "A lot ofwounds is getting healed right now. ... Tonight was a bigsurgery."

The three are working together in a studio and hope torelease an album sometime next year, he said.

Elliott stunned reporters when she admitted she had neverheard of Live 8, the upcoming series of global concertsdesigned to raise awareness of poverty in Africa.

"I don't even know what Live 8 is. I can't tell you what itmeans," she said.

Also backstage, Keys said she was reviving MTV's"Unplugged" series with plans to perform an acoustic show inJuly and release the recording in October.

Gladys Knight received a lifetime achievement award andthanked God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She performed three ofthe hits she enjoyed with backing group the Pips, "If I WereYour Woman," "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be the First to SayGoodbye)" and the signature tune "Midnight Train to Georgia."