Instead of introducing viewers to the latest and greatest in upcoming and established bands, MTV is now a candy-coated shell of its former self. However, one institution from MTV’s heyday that is still around is the Video Music Awards, which began in 1984 with an explosive rendition of Madonna’s iconic “Like a Virgin” and remains MTV’s largest annual event. By the time the 1989 VMAs rolled around, it was well on its way to being a musical institution. Hosted for the second time by a grinning and charismatic Arsenio Hall, that year’s awards ceremony would go down as one of the most iconic in history. Even in 1989, at the height of its power, MTV was able to perceive that big hair was on the cusp of being supplanted, leading the network to expand the VMA categories to include Best Heavy Metal Video, Best Rap Video, Best Dance Video, and Best Post-Modern Video. However, the possibility of new Moonmen trophies was overshadowed by some truly outrageous moments.
One of the early oddities came when Weird Al Yankovic decided to call out standard issue audience praise by screaming back at them after each announcement. Sharing the stage with an uncomfortable Jasmine Guy, Yankovic refused to relent. With the closing move of pretending to snatch the Moonman from Guy’s grasp, it’s safe to say that the comic made an impression.