LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Barack Obama didn't attend the BET Awards, but that didn't stop attendees from talking about him.
“If we all register and vote, we will have the first black president in the history of America,'' Sean “Diddy'' Combs told the crowd Tuesday at the Shrine Auditorium before chanting “Obama or Die'' _ a declarative remix of his neutral “Vote or Die'' motto from the 2004 presidential election, when he attempted to boost the youth vote.
Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was just a few miles away at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a fundraiser with a Hollywood guest list that included supermodels Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and movie stars Samuel L. Jackson and John Malkovich. While Obama didn't make an appearance at the BET Awards _ either live or on tape _ his presence was felt.
As she picked up her award for best female R&B artist, Alicia Keys told the crowd that it's time for black people to erase the word “can't'' from their vocabulary.
“Together we can do anything,'' she said, playing on the Democrat's “Yes We Can'' mantra before shouting: “Obama y'all!''
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, failed to merit a shout out by any of the BET presenters or performers.
“For the first time in history, we have the opportunity for somebody who's not in the good ol' boy network to get into office,'' rapper David Banner told reporters backstage. “People talk about his lack of experience, but there's people with much more experience who haven't done such a good job.''
Stephen Hill, executive vice president of entertainment and music programming at BET, said there was talk of having Obama attend the BET Awards but it didn't work out.
“We would've loved it if he would've stopped by,'' said Hill.
During his monologue, host D.L. Hughley cracked jokes about Obama. Other attendees were more flattering. Backstage, Humanitarian Award winner Quincy Jones said he wanted Obama to be elected and create a Secretary of Culture position. Actress Nia Long beamed about possible first lady Michelle Obama.
“Michelle is graceful, beautiful and not afraid to be exactly who she is,'' Long said backstage. “It's wonderful to see their love in the midst of all the political madness. They have something we should all be proud of. She's smart. She's educated. And she's fearless. I'd love to have tea with her one day.''
One attendee used fashion to show her support for Obama. Actress-comedian Kym Whitley, who revealed she'll be appearing in a small role in the upcoming “Transformers'' sequel, donned a tight purple shirt that read 'Barack Obama 08' in glittery black letters
“I don't know him, and he doesn't know me,'' she said. “But we're gonna make eye contact one day.''
Longtime Obama supporter John Legend affirmed the importance of voting in the upcoming election: “I'll be working to make sure people get out to vote this fall.''