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Backstage at the Jingle Ball: Proposals, personalities and Enrique's new biggest fan




Asked Monday morning if she’d come down from her high on Sunday, Nicole Vyner said: “Absolutely not.”

Why should she? Out of the 8,000-plus fans in the crowd at Sunday’s 93.3 FLZ Jingle Ball at the St. Pete Times Forum, it was Vyner whom Enrique Iglesias pulled from the crowd for a sensual onstage serenade during his hit ballad Hero. Throughout the song, Iglesias showered the 22-year-old Dollar Tree and Walmart cashier with hugs, caresses and affection, turning her into the unexpected star of the night.

“I couldn’t feel my legs, they were shaking so hard,” Vyner said. “I was trying not to show I was crying really bad, but I was. Every time he walked away and then turned to walk back to me across the stage, I would just put my hands over my mouth. I was shaking, and he could see the tears running down my face, and he’d get a smile on his face.”

Iglesias got lucky, too, that Vyner was a game choice for the gimmick. When he commanded her to grab his rear end, he apologized for not having much of an ass.

Replied Vyner: “You’ve got a great f---ing ass!” The crowd screamed.

And then there was the kiss.

“A lot of people asked me: 'Any tongue?’” she said. “No, no tongue, But it was a real kiss. He really kissed me. It was so awesome.”

After Iglesias left the stage, he invited Vyner and her friend backstage to hang out, snap some photos and meet artists like Maroon 5 and Mike Posner. He may pull this trick a lot, but at least he goes about it the right way.

“That made my holiday,” Vyner said. “I don’t want anything else for the rest of the year. I don’t care about Christmas presents. That was perfect.”

The duet between Iglesias and Vyner was a showstopper, but it was hardly the only memorable behind-the-scenes moment from the 2010 Jingle Ball.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that last year’s inaugural Jingle Ball was, in many ways, a bit of a cluster. It was far from a sellout, and the MetroPCS Celebrity Club was at times a chaotic, disorganized scene.

Not so this year. Not only did 93.3 FLZ bring in a bigger class of headliners, the entire production moved smoothly and efficiently, and energy was high throughout the house all night.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few hiccups along the way.

We heard Bruno Mars and Posner didn’t make it to Tampa until shortly before the show due to snowy weather in Chicago. Mars and Iglesias pushed back their appearances in the Celebrity Club, prompting some fans to wonder if they were going to show up at all. (In fact, Iglesias did have a nearly shot voice, and struggled to get through the set.)

But show up they did. And some fans waited in line for more than a half hour to meet them. (Maroon 5 also drew a huge meet-and-greet crowd.) Some artists popped in and out in a hurry; others, like the purple-shoed Posner and the singer Dev, hung around to take casual photos and sign autographs for fans. Unlike last year, there weren’t too many additional celebs in the house — just a slew of 93.3 FLZ DJs like Todd “MJ” Schnitt, Katie Sommers and Jaime Ferreira.

Iglesias was the final performer to hit the Celebrity Club, at nearly 11 p.m. And after his performance, the line to meet him seemed to stretch halfway around the Forum. After the show, Iglesias and his crew headed to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a little late-night grub.

By the end of the night, Iglesias was such a hot ticket that people were even clamoring for Vyner's photo.

“It was so crazy!" she said. "I took pictures with people I had no clue who they were. Girls were coming up to me — 'Oh my god! Can I touch you? Can I hug you?’ I got random hugs from a bunch of people. Almost everybody that I talked to said, 'You made me cry so bad! I was crying worse than you were!’ They were taking pictures of the pictures that I got.”

Aside from Enrique's seduction of Vyner, and the duet between Bruno and B.o.B. on Nothin’ On You, the most magical onstage moment of the evening came when a guy named Mike proposed to his girlfriend, Tina, onstage right before Train played their new single Marry Me. Fitting, right?

Funny thing is, that wasn’t even the first proposal of the day.

Before the Jingle Ball, Train played a three-song acoustic set for 100 or so fans in the Celebrity Club. The second song was Marry Me. And as soon as they started, Michael Nugent got down on one knee.

“I was hoping that they were going to play it during the acoustic set,” said Michael Nugent, 37, of Tampa. “I knew tonight was going to be it. Somehow, I was going to pull this off.”

Kneeling next to the stage, he popped the question to his girlfriend of a year, Christin Hickey.

“The very first time I heard that song, I knew that was the song I was going to ask her to marry me to,” said Nugent, 37, of Tampa. “I downloaded it on my iPod on the way home, and played it for her when I got home. I already knew that was the song I was going to have in some way, shape or form when I proposed to her. I knew that song was going to do it.”

The couple had talked about getting married, but Hickey, 26, had no idea the proposal was coming Sunday. “This was the perfect time to propose,” she said, gushing. “And I had no idea. I was just coming for a night out, you know?”

When she said yes, their friends waved to the band to let them know what had just happened. Train singer Pat Monahan called them onstage to recreate the proposal and dance during the rest of the song. “When someone gets married on the stage, it’s all downhill from there,” he said.

Not for Nugent and Hickey, who celebrated the rest of the night, no doubt making early plans for their wedding.

They already know their first-dance song.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Top photo: Luis Santana, tbt*. Click here for more onstage highlights and behind-the-scenes photos from this year's Jingle Ball.

[Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 1:00pm]


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