Last year, a throng of screaming tween girls crammed into the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for Usher’s New Look Foundation awards gala, jockeying for a glimpse of Justin Bieber and shrieking at his every word. The audience exploded when former President Bill Clinton walked onto the stage.
This year, not so much.
The Friday night event had a more corporate feel, with folks like Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce president Sam Williams, GE vice chairman John Rice and executives from Ford, a major sponsor, strolling down the red carpet.
A few entertainers attended, including “American Idol” alum Melinda Doolittle, but they were outnumbered by guys in suits.
The lightly populated press pen lobbed a few friendly questions when Usher made it down the carpet, asking for his thoughts on philanthropy (he believes in giving back) and who most inspired him (his mother). Only one ill-behaved scribe veered off-message and asked Usher how his plan to turn Pippa Middleton into a lingerie model was going.
Okay, that was us.
He answered with a chuckle and said he looks forward to the research and development phase. “I’m single, too,” he quipped.
During the program Usher, who co-hosted with teen actor Nadji Jeter, welcomed CNN founder and global philanthropist Ted Turner to the stage to receive the 2011 Service Legacy Award.
“I believe service is extremely important,” Turner said. Exhibiting none of the unpredictable oratory that has earned him the nickname “Mouth of the South,” Turner uttered a few more polite words of thanks and sat down again.
Usher acknowledged the contrast between last year’s more riotous event during remarks he read from a giant teleprompter at the back of the auditorium but said he wanted to focus more on substance than sizzle this year.
- Jennifer Brett/The Buzzemail@example.com