Weezy Week: Lil Wayne interviews celebrities at ESPN's Super Bowl party in Tampa
(All week, Soundcheck is paying tribute to the unusual life and career of Lil Wayne with a series of features we’re calling Weezy Week.)
In 2009, the Super Bowl returned to Tampa with a thrilling game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. I was among the many Times and tbt* reporters dispatched to cover the party scene, including the ESPN party in downtown Tampa.
There were plenty of stars on hand, including Lindsay Lohan, Kevin James, Cuba Gooding Jr., Christian Slater, Little Steven Van Zandt and Wyclef Jean. But the man everyone (well, all the athletes, at least) wanted to talk to was Lil Wayne. The rapper set up an interview couch at the end of the red carpet, where he pulled in players and pundits to chat with them for ESPN.com.
I didn't get to meet Weezy that night; I merely orbited in his presence. But I did talk to several people who got to meet him. I parked myself on the red carpet and filed two reports from that party on Jan. 30, 2009. They are reposted below.
ESPN Party: No Lil Wayne (yet)!
TAMPA -- At the ESPN the Magazine NEXT Party in downtown Tampa, there was one place all the athletes, musicians and entertainers on hand wanted to be -- more than the vintage arcade-game lounge, more than the lavish Patron bar; more, even, than the Hugo Boss-sponsored bathroom.
That place: Lil Wayne’s interview lounge.
The rapper, who’s scheduled to blog about the red carpet for ESPN.com, has a posh tent set up just off the red carpet, where he was scheduled to interview anyone who passed through.
Unfortunately, by 10:45 p.m., Lil Wayne hadn’t arrived.
Jared Fogle, yes. ESPN.com fantasy guru Matthew Berry, yes. MC Hammer, yes.
But there was no sign of the uber-platinum rapper, leaving the athletes who’d come specifically to meet him out in the (50-degree) cold, Weezy-wise.
But a slew of other celebrites popped up at what is expected to be one of the weekend’s hottest parties, from Stacy Kiebler to Christian Slater to all your favorite stars of ESPN, such as Kenny Mayne and Scott Van Pelt.
“All athletes, I think, want to be musicians,” said Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden.
“And all musicians want to be athletes,” added his brother and bandmate Benji.
That ESPN the Magazine even held a party this year was something of an accomplishment, considering mags like Playboy and Sports Illustrated cancelled theirs.
“They do a tremendous job promoting the brand at things such as this and the ESPYs,” said ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp, one of the network’s journalists who walked the red carpet. “They have big parties, and they keep the buzz alive. This is part of the business. This isn’t the lawn tennis society. ... I’m very grateful that they make the money that allows us to go out and do as muhch journalism as we can do.”
Still: No Lil Wayne. That hurts.
“I might try to be nonchalant about (meeting him),” said the Cubs’ Tony Thomas, a huge fan of Lil Wayne’s. “Might try to bump into him or something. Might even use my girlfriend. Anything to meet the guy.”
Subway spokesman Fogle, who actually HAS met Lil Wayne -- the two appeared on this year’s season premiere of Saturday Night Live -- said coming face-to-face with Weezy is every bit as exciting as one might think.
“When you aget him one-on-one, he’s just a cool guy,” Fogle said. “He likes Subway. He loves the commercials that I do. It was very surreal for me, as you can imagine.”
For now, unfortunately, when it comes to Lil Wayne, our imaginations are all we’ve got.
TAMPA -- Lil Wayne finally made it to his interview tent on the red carpet outside the ESPN the Magazine NEXT Party, and sure enough, players were stoked to get inside.
“I thought he might be here, and then they kind of pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, do you want to go talk to him?’ 'Alright, sounds pretty cool to me,’” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “I’ll have to go tell my sister. She’ll be fired up that I talked to some of these guys.”
ESPN’s own Professor, John Clayton, sat for an interview with Weezy and came away impressed with his knowledge of the game.
“He did well in the interview,” Clayton said. “He knows his football. He’s got his history -- he’d like the Cardinals to win because of the Kurt Warner story, but he went to high school with Ike Taylor. And I could see how he follows the game, because I said, 'Is Ike Taylor as bad at catching the ball on interceptions as he is now?’ He said, 'Oh, he could never catch the ball.’ You see how he follows the game.”
Another potential source for the Professor, it seems.
(One of the few guys who didn’t want to talk to Lil Wayne: Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. He said it was too cold, and wanted to get inside the party.)
Inside, a host of A-listers roamed and gladhanded with athletes, including Little Steven Van Zandt and the band Lifehouse. But most of the big-name celebs took to one of the luxe white leather couches and stayed there, like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kevin James.
Lindsay Lohan stashed herself away in a cubicle of couches next to the DJ booth, where Samantha Ronson -- sans porkpie hat, but wearing fetching pink- and black-striped fingerless gloves -- spun a high-energy mix of classic rock remixes (G’n’R, Pink Floyd) with M.I.A. and Biggie, alongside Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden. Joel’s brother Benji sat across from LiLo, and they both texted and puffed cigarettes, surrounded by cops and wannabe paparazzi trying to nonchalantly snap camera-phone photos.
Wclef Jean took the stage about midnight with the Fugees’ Ready or Not, and on the red carpet, he sounded excited to be there.
“Everybody that knows me knows I’ve got like two or three channels -- ESPN, CNN and Fox News to keep it balanced,” Jean said. “For me, when I come back to my room, if I want to know what happened, if I missed the situation, I tune it to ESPN.”
Right now, 'Clef is up onstage playing Gone Till November. And the crowd is acting like they’d like to stay at the ESPN party all the way to the end of January.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*