LOS ANGELES – The Spice Girls made a clean sweep of the 25th annual American Music Awards Monday, winning in all three of their categories, and leading the long list of key artists who did not attend the ceremony.
The British pop sensations were rehearsing for their world tour in Dublin and sent in a pre-recorded video message. They won for favorite band, favorite album (“Spice”) and favorite new artist in the pop/rock category. Not so lucky were fellow no-shows, the Wallflowers, who went head-to-head with the Spice Girls in those three areas.
Other winners who did not turn up included Frank Sinatra, who received the noncompetitive Award of Merit, Celine Dion, Elton John, Mariah Carey and British rockers Bush.
One artist who did turn up was the unluckiest man of the evening. Puff Daddy, the stage name of rap impresario Sean “Puffy” Combs, had led the field with five nominations, but went home empty-handed.
Combs magnanimously went backstage to tell reporters that he was philosophical about the shut-out.
“I’m just grateful to be here . . . I’ve got so much to be thankful for,” he said.
He even read the acceptance speech he had prepared, in which he thanked his mother, girlfriend, label boss Clive Davis, and most notably his friend the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., to whom he would have dedicated an award.
Besides the Spice Girls, the other multiple winners were Babyface and George Strait, with two trophies each. Babyface, the stage name of singer-producer Kenneth Edmonds, won favorite male artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories. Strait won favorite male artist and favorite album (“Carrying Your Love With Me”) in the country category.
Upon accepting his first award to a standing ovation, a surprised Babyface said at the podium that he would be “remiss” if he did not acknowledge Combs: “I love you, I really do . . . He’s my guy.”
The second time he went up, Babyface took Combs in a lengthy embrace.
Among the other absentee award-winners, Celine Dion was favorite female artist in the pop/rock category, and Mariah in the soul/R&B category. Elton John won for favorite adult contemporary artist. Bush won for favorite alternative music artist.
Winners who were present included Erykah Badu, who was favorite new artist in the soul/R&B category, and Lee Ann Womack, who won the award in the country category.
Julio Iglesias won the inaugural favorite Latin artist award, beating his heartthrob son, Enrique, and Luis Miguel. Iglesias pere said backstage that it was only natural for him to win the first award because, “I’m the best one, darling.”
Asked how he would celebrate, Iglesias said, “I will make love with my first wife.”
Perhaps the emotional highlight of the evening was Nancy Sinatra’s acceptance of the Award of Merit on behalf of father Frank, whom she told the audience was “the coolest guy on the face of the planet, next to Puff Daddy: my Daddy.”
Struggling to hold back tears, she continued, “I am so proud to be your daughter and am so happy to accept this wonderful award for you.”
Backstage, Sinatra said her 82-year-old father was doing well health-wise, and would be watching the show on television.
The ceremony took place at the Shrine Auditorium, with comedian Drew Carey hosting. Performers included Puff Daddy, Garth Brooks, Janet Jackson and Matchbox 20.
Winners of the American Music Awards are determined by a poll of about 20,000 members of the public who are chosen on the basis of geographic location, age, sex and race. Nominees aare based on sales and radio airplay data.
Following is a complete list of winners:
Favorite Male Artist – Babyface
Favorite Female Artist – Celine Dion
Favorite Band, Duo or Group – the Spice Girls
Favorite Album – ”Spice” (the Spice Girls)
Favorite New Artist – the Spice Girls
SOUL/RHYTHM & BLUES
Favorite Male Artist – Babyface
Favorite Female Artist – Mariah Carey
Favorite Band, Duo or Group – Boyz II Men
Favorite Album – ”Share My World” (Mary J. Blige)
Favorite New Artist – Erykah Badu
Favorite Male Artist – George Strait
Favorite Female Artist – Reba McEntire
Favorite Band, Duo or Group – Alabama
Favorite Album – ”Carrying Your Love With Me” (George Strait)
Favorite New Artist – Lee Ann Womack
Favorite Artist – Elton John
Favorite Soundtrack – ”Men in Black”
Favorite Artist – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Favorite Artist – Julio Iglesias
Favorite Artist – Bush
AWARD OF MERIT (non-competitive)