Amy Winehouse never appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards during her short but celebrated career. Still, Sunday's show will take a break from its planned circus atmosphere to pay tribute to the British singer, who died a month ago after years of substance abuse.
Tony Bennett will lead the tribute to Winehouse; her last known recording was with the 85-year-old crooner on his upcoming "Duets II" album. There is also word swirling that Winehouse's parents might show, but MTV officials could not confirm their appearance.
The tribute to Winehouse will likely be the rare moment of reverence in a show that is calculated to be as irreverent as possible. This year, the current queen of sexy daffiness, Katy Perry, is poised to be the belle of MTV's annual ball: She's up for a leading 10 moonman trophies, including video of the year for her inspirational "Firework."
Another female singer is also a top nominee: Adele, the year's best-selling artist so far with her album "21," is nominated for seven awards for "Rolling in the Deep"; Kanye West also has seven nominations.
West - always good for a colorful MTV moment (ask Taylor Swift) - is not expected to perform at the awards, which are being held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, broadcast live on MTV from 9-11 p.m. But there are plenty of other headline-generating performers, including Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Pitbull and Chris Brown, whose star continues to brighten two years after it was tarnished by his attack on Rihanna.
And then there was the headline-generating Irene, the hurricane-tuned-tropical storm that was pummeling her way up the Eastern seaboard on Sunday. MTV President Stephen Friedman said some VMA performers from the East Coast arrived in LA early to avoid the storm and resulting airport disruptions. But he was hopeful viewer disruption would be minimal.
"Our hope is our audience is cuddled up with their family and friends and don't want to be outside and want to watch the best night in music," he said.