Waiting to 'XL'

Forget East Coast vs. West Coast, It's Motown vs. Brit Rock

(Michael Conroy - AP)
Friday, February 3, 2006

DETROIT, Feb. 2 -- If you thought the biggest controversy of Super Bowl XL was the Jerramy Stevens vs. Joey Porter yap-off, you would be so very, very wrong.

It's The Stones vs. Stevie Wonder. Aretha vs. Mick and Keith. Motown vs. Rock-and-roll in a grudge match for supremacy at halftime of Sunday's game.

For those who do not subscribe to People or spend post-dinner bliss with Mary Hart, here's a recap: The NFL picked those British geezers, the Rolling Stones, to do the primo halftime show in Detroit, largely overlooking the stars who built this city's fierce musical reputation. Egos were bruised, a minor brouhaha ensued and eventually a lineup of performers -- including Wonder and Aretha Franklin -- got a pregame gig. Still, the Stones will get the halftime glory.

So Thursday, in dueling news conferences a few hours apart, the stars gave their take on the episode. Wonder got the whole thing started by offering some unsolicited opening remarks after the NFL suit overseeing the event began to take questions from the breathless entertainment press.

"There's been a lot of controversy about halftime and all that," Wonder said, "but rest assured, if we didn't want the Stones, we wouldn't be here. So that's what's up." Franklin, carrying a massive Louis Vuitton handbag, admitted that the lack of Motown flavor in the original Super Bowl plans had her miffed, but said "everything is wonderful now, everything is cool."

In their presser, the Stones pulled in about four times as many members of the media, and Mick Jagger offered their side of it. "The thing about the NFL is they run a good show, but eventually they make a mistake like everybody," Jagger said. "But they were quick to rectify it, and I think Motown is pretty well represented."

Jagger stole the show, but the smart move was to keep eyes trained on Keith Richards at all times. Simply put, he rocked. He spent a good bit of the news conference rubbing his right hand up and down his chest and pointing to people at random and making faces. In addition, he delivered at least six fairly unintelligible non sequiturs and capped his performance with a brilliant Ed Sullivan impersonation.

Richards did summon the mental fortitude to solve one of mankind's eternal questions, however, before slinking off: Who would better survive nuclear annihilation, the Stones or cockroaches? It's the Stones, silly. Roaches don't stand a chance. "We're going to eat them," Richards said.

Mullets, Etc.

The place is officially crawling with humanity now. It's bedlam around the Renaissance Center. . . . Is it possible that there is a barbershop in Pittsburgh offering a free Steelers jersey with every mullet? Some things just naturally come in pairs, we guess. . . . For those keeping score, the Stones uttered just one profanity; the over-under was 3. . . . "Entertainment Tonight" really does get all the scoops. They had special reserved seats in the front row of the news conferences, and Kevin Frazier, who defected from ESPN, got to mingle with Franklin and Aaron Neville before things got started. Neville, by the way, sports quite the physique. He and NFL uber-referee Ed Hochuli would make a killer WWE tag team. (And, yes, we realize that's two straight days with Hochuli references. We can't get enough of the guy.) Accidentally catching one of the "ET" talking heads having his dyed and highlighted coif fluffed by a flunky made us, once again, question our career choice of print over electronic media.

-- Jason La Canfora

© 2006 The Washington Post Company