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The Award That Soul Train Didn’t Bestow

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s a good thing singer Karyn White didn’t show up at the Soul Train Music Awards show at the Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday. It would have been one of the most embarrassing moments in awards-show history. Can you imagine accepting an award and giving a gushing acceptance speech, only to be told you hadn’t won after all?

Though presenter Young M.C. announced that White had won the best urban contemporary single award for “Secret Rendezvous,” the winner was actually “Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson--who won three, tying Soul II Soul for most awards.

According to the show’s spokesman Ramon Hervey, Price Waterhouse, the firm that tabulated the votes, made the error--serving up an envelope naming the wrong winner. Hervey announced the mistake in the backstage press room after the show, roughly two hours after the on-air error. The disaster was minimized because White wasn’t there. But neither was Jackson.

A Price Waterhouse statement indicated that winners’ cards are printed for each nominee to ensure confidentiality and only the winner’s is inserted in the envelope the day before the show. “The envelope for best R&B; contemporary single, female, unintentionally contained two cards,” and the wrong winner was named.

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(The mistake wasn’t unprecedented. At the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1986, the winner of the award for best writing on a soap opera was announced as “The Young and the Restless,” and a representative accepted it on national television. Only later did the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand realize that the wrong name had been put into the envelope and that the real winner was “Guiding Light.”)

Hervey said the Soul Train mistake wasn’t corrected on the live telecast and couldn’t be fixed in time for the local tape-delay airing either. In markets where the show is still scheduled to run, a correction will be made in the telecast.

Otherwise, it was award-show business as usual--without, however, the usual grousing about the wrong artists’ winning. Soul II Soul, the hip British group that’s both a critical and fan favorite, lost in five categories at the recent American Music Awards, but won three Soul Train awards--best song, group single and group album for “Keep on Movin’.”

In the female categories, Jackson’s three awards included best video (“Rhythm Nation”) and best album (“Rhythm Nation 1814"). Babyface won the other major award, best album by a male, for “Tender Lover.”

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But the high points had nothing to do with the 12 music awards, which are voted on by retailers and radio and record industry personnel. Two popular favorites, Quincy Jones and Arsenio Hall, drew the loudest cheers for winning special awards. Jones claimed the Heritage Award for outstanding career achievement, while Hall was given the Sammy Davis Jr. award, presented to the “entertainer of the year.”

With the fourth annual Soul Train Music Awards, like the all the other made-for-TV award shows, who wins is less important than the show--and who shows up. On a scale of 10, this celebrity turnout rated an 8. Jackson and Paula Abdul, the hottest stars in the soul business, weren’t there. Neither were Michael Jackson nor Prince. But Bobby Brown, Al B. Sure!, Milli Vanilli and Babyface showed up.


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