The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

John Legend's cellphone video captures giddy celebrities meeting the Obamas

January 19, 2009 |  2:59 pm

You know how giddy people get when they meet celebrities? Yeah, that's how giddy celebrities like Queen Latifah get when they meet Barack Obama. We know that because of cellphone video footage that John Legend, the R&B singer who performed at Sunday's inauguration concert, posted on his website today.

Obama was making his way down a receiving line at the National Mall after the performance. One of Legend's staffers, using a Nokia N95 camera phone and a mobile streaming service called Kyte, captured some of the big shots of music and film waiting in the cold to hug and smooch the president-elect.

With its shaky camera work, patchy audio and too-long run time, the clip (watch it below) could be an episode of "Home Videos of the Rich and Famous," if there was such a thing.  But this unorthodox instance of citizen journalism (not every citizen hobnobs with political and cultural royalty) offers a creaky window into the top tiers of the nation's biggest celebration. 

You see Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige, Josh Grobin, Ashton Kutcher (shooting video of his own), Samuel L. Jackson and Sheryl Crow. Forest Whitaker poses for a photo with Beyonce, who laments that she forgot to bring her camera phone. Legend, apparently in a state of mild euphoria, keeps saying, "Yes we can," then remembers to give a shout out to his website: "It's history y'all. Aren't you glad you got the backstage on Kyte?, your news source." Latifah leans against Legend, preparing for Obama's arrival.

"I might need you to hold me up," she tells Legend.

At about 6:20 into the video, the president-elect emerges to hug Blige, who had performed during the concert. “How you doing, baby?" Obama asks her. "You looked so pretty up there." He hugs Legend (7:40), who stumped for the president-elect and recorded music in his honor, and tells him he's grateful for his support. Legend also gets a hug from Michelle Obama (8:20), who tells him, "Next stop: White House."

But it wouldn't be a political event without a Joe Biden moment, right? When he's introduced to Legend (9:40), the vice president-elect says, "How are you, buddy?" then turns toward the video-enabled Nokia phone that Legend's staffer is holding up and his face freezes into a camera-ready smile. Legend gently informs Biden that it's not a still-camera he's looking at. "Oh, it's a video!" Biden shouts. Then he moves down the line.

-- Chris Gaither