There’s been a lot of brouhaha over a little rumpshaking on Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards. In case you hadn’t heard, or are fortunate enough not to care, Miley Cyrus twerked onstage in her underwear all over Robin Thicke as part of her choreographed performance. Then she started a fistfight with Selena Gomez, announced that she’d be touring again as Hannah Montana, and destroyed every piece of equipment onstage before diving into the crowd from atop a smoking amp.
Oh, wait — no, she didn’t. I must be confusing her performance with these actual shocking moments from VMAs past. Take a walk down memory lane with me, and we’ll reminisce together about when truly badass stuff used to go down on the VMA stage.
Madonna Performs “Like A Virgin” Like A Tramp, 1984
Consider that people are still arguing hotly over the sanctity of marriage thirty years later, and you’ll have some idea of how provocative this performance was in 1984. Not a buttcheek needed to jiggle for us to be scandalized.
Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, and Dave Grohl: Battle Royale, 1992
What a mess. Right off the bat, we see Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic brain himself with his own bass. Then the destruction-fest begins, which was nothing unusual for ’90s-era VMAs. Things really start to heat up when Dave Grohl, continuing a pre-show feud among himself, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and Axl Rose, calls Axl out in front of everyone with his repeated “Hi, Axl! Where’s Axl?” taunts. Rumor has it that Kurt actually spit on the keys of the piano Axl was to play later that night before finding out during the performance that it was actually Elton John’s piano he’d spit upon. Whoops.
Pee-wee Herman Gets Whipped Out, 1991
Nowadays, people can whip it out, take a picture of it, send it to a teenager, and still run for public office. In the old-fashioned days of 1991, however, a children’s TV show host whipping it out in a movie theater was a pretty big deal. Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, made his first public appearance after his lewd behavior scandal on the 1991 VMAs to a standing ovation. “Heard any good jokes lately?” Pee-wee, you’re just lucky we didn’t have Twitter back then.
Bret Fires C.C., 1991
Kind of a shitshow of a performance, huh? That’s because Poison was supposed to play “Unskinny Bop” that night. Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille was so hammered, though, that he played the opening riff of “Talk Dirty To Me” instead and the rest of the band had to just go with it. After a fistfight backstage, Bret fired C.C. and we never heard from either of them again. (Just kidding.)
Howard Stern as Fartman, 1993
As an homage to Prince’s performance the year before in his famous assless pants, Howard Stern graced the VMA stage as his alter ego, Fartman, with his own wretched ass bared to the world. Drink it in, folks. Then puke it back up.
Van Halen Reunites…PSYCH! 1996
In 1996, after several endless years of Van Haggar, Van Halen fans across the world rejoiced as VH announced their impending reunion with original frontman David Lee Roth. Except it was actually bullshit, and they weren’t reuniting at all. Poor DLR.
RuPaul Dawgs Milton Berle, 1993
Is it ever okay to ridicule the elderly? You be the judge. After some heated backstage barbs, Queen of Queens RuPaul and legend of the screen Milton Berle presented together. Determined to have the last word, RuPaul ad-libs the now-famous diaper line, putting the closed-minded oldster right in his place.
Beyonce’s Baby Bump, 2011
Okay, so no one got physically assaulted, and yeah, she announced her pregnancy at the pre-show…but tell me the First Lady of Hip Hop busting out her baby bump mid-performance wasn’t great. Also, you all now have permission to punch me in the stomach for using the term “baby bump.”
Tim Commerford Gets Arrested, 2000
In the year 2000, we were all somehow capable of getting riled up by Fred Durst. Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine was no exception. He climbed the set like a monkey, flirted with diving off, caused a big scene, got called a pussy by Durst, and ended up spending the night in jail for his shenanigans. Rock and roll.
And of course, we can’t close out a list like this without…
Kanye Reveals Himself To Be A Complete Ass, 2009
We all know what happened. Poor T. Swift gets interrupted during her acceptance speech by a belligerent Kanye West, who felt so strongly that Beyonce should have won that he needed to make a spectacle of himself. To be fair, he’s wasted, which is something I feel was left out of most coverage of the incident. I mean, who doesn’t act a fool sometimes when they’re drunk? It does, however, bring to mind one of my favorite tweets of all time, which I feel perfectly encapsulates the Kanye West mentality:
u are not the main character of ur life. that's kanye west. & unless u're one of a very select few others, the title of your role is "hater"
— nice_mustard® (@nice_mustard) December 18, 2012
Until next year!