5:10 p.m.: After leaving the red carpet, Miley Cyrus, dressed in a skin-tight Herve Leger dress, clutched the arm of her fake-tanned mother. "Mom, I can hardly walk in these!" She grimaced, making her way into the Staples Center at a snail's pace as strappy black heels dug into her feet.
4:27 p.m.: With just minutes until the award show's kickoff, the carpet became a maelstrom of famous faces, an almost mind-numbing blur of boldfaced names -- who naturally did not have time to speak to every reporter. Ricky Martin, "Jersey Shore" breakout the Situation and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ambled by. Carlos Santana, Kid Cudi and Alice Cooper took pictures and gave interviews. Grammy honcho Neil Portnow grabbed a photo with Ringo Starr. And Katy Perry, in a figure-hugging, beige and gold floor-length dress, was seen running down the carpet shrieking, "I don't know what I'm doing right now!"
4:18 p.m.: In another outward sign of Lady Gaga's thrall over the celeb-packed crowd, hip-hop crooner Akon was wearing a T-shirt bearing her name and likeness as he made the red carpet rounds. He snuck up behind Auto-Tune all-star T-Pain and made goofy faces during a televised interview. Asked how he had been taking in all the Grammy week festivities, T-Pain remained characteristically low-key. "It's all good. I didn't pay nothing for a ticket," the rapper-turned-singer said. "I've been going to all the porno parties.... I don't take any of this too seriously."
4:02 p.m.: Party-rap duo LMFAO -- the group responsible for what is arguably 2009's biggest club banger, "Shots" (featuring Lil Jon) -- are nominated for best electronic/dance album tonight. Win or lose, the band members have their contingency plans. "If we win, we'll be doing shots!" shouted Redfoo, with barely contained enthusiasm. And if you lose? "We'll probably do some shots, too," he said. His bandmate Sky Blu seconded that emotion, then mimed the action of squeezing a gun's trigger.
3:40 p.m.: Jason Mraz, right, is up against some heavy hitters in the best male pop performance category: Stevie Wonder and Maxwell, to name but two. But that was news to Mraz, who admitted total ignorance of his competition for the evening. "I haven't even had time to look at the other nominees," Mraz said an hour before the award show began. "I spent the last two and a half years on the road. Which is also proof I didn't vote at the Grammys. I just got here in the middle of this madness." He continued, breathlessly: "Lady Antebellum's over here. There's Weird Al Yankovic. I love that it brings together all these genres. It's a mash-up -- of acknowledgment. Of celebrating the gig."
3:33 p.m.: Early consensus is that everyone here is on pins and needles to see what outrageous frocks Lady Gaga will don for the red carpet. Asked what he was looking forward to most during the show, dancehall reggae star Sean Paul smiled broadly and replied: "Lady Gaga. She has amazing style. I can't wait to see what she'll wear." A Gaga impersonator also showed up on the carpet, momentarily confusing reporters and photographers. For more on Gaga's get-up and other sartorial highlights (and missteps) of the Grammys, visit All the Rage's red carpet gallery.
3:20 p.m.: British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap won a Grammy for best engineered album, non-classical for her "Ellipse." She turned heads on the carpet, though, for her quintessentially eccentric and forward-thinking attire. Around Heap's neck: a kind of sculptural cuff with blinking lights, and her purse was a small television. "This necklace has a live Twitter feed," Heap explained. "I've got a wireless router here, which is heating up my belly nicely. And here's a television with videos my fans are sending to my account. Now they're accompanying me down the red carpet." Naturally, her outfit, deemed "Immi's Twitdress," has its own Twitter feed.
2:54 p.m.: Nominated in the best dance/electronic category, the electronica duo the Crystal Method lost out to Lady Gaga, who was awarded her statuette before the broadcast began. The band's Scott Kirkland didn't take kindly to Gaga's choice to not personally accept her Grammy.
"We already got the category out of the way. Lady Gaga won and didn't even show up to get the award!" Kirkland exclaimed. "What is that? It's like, if you win the blender, you have to be there to get the blender to win the blender, right? You gotta be there to win the award!"
2:04 p.m.: Redheaded indie rocker Neko Case, right, nominated for best
contemporary folk album for her critically acclaimed release "Middle
Cyclone," seemed happy to take in the spectacle: "I'm so excited to be here but also overwhelmed. I'm so country mouse! I'm pretty excited by the outfits too. There are some amazing looking ladies."
1:45 p.m.: T minus 3.5 hours to show time and the carpet is a crazy quilt of pop-culture grandees. There's Sofia Coppola looking slightly pregnant (for good reason) in a metallic blue mini-dress, here to support her husband, the lead singer of Phoenix, which is nominated for best alternative act. There's lingerie model Marisa Miller being interviewed by Snooki from "Jersey Shore." There's Elvis Costello, left, in a black pinstripe suit and natty orange porkpie hat, getting props from everyone in sight for his television show, "Spectacle: Elvis Costello With ..." And also in the "um, what exactly is the nature of your business here?" category, there's actress Alfre Woodard.
1:34 p.m.: Nominated last year for best new artist, R&B diva Ledisi, left, said she had arrived the the ceremony in a state of nervous apprehension. Nominated this year for best female R&B vocal performance, the singer said she felt calmer because she knew what to expect and didn't feel the same burdens of expectation placed on her. "I'm expecting to have fun," Ledisi said. "This year, I can relax and take everything in."
In particular, she said, she's looking forward to meeting her competition in the category. "I'm a huge Beyoncé fan... and I can't wait to see Lady Gaga!"
-- Chris Lee
Photos: At top, Imogen Heap. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times. At middle: Jason Mraz. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times. At middle, Neko Case. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times. At bottom, Elvis Costello. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times