L O S A N G E L E S, Feb. 19, 2001 -- A unique duet at the Grammys Wednesday night is set to stir things up.
Rapper Eminem, famous for disparaging gays, has been nominated for four awards, and he's going to perform onstage with openly gay music legend Elton John. They'll be performing Eminem's hit "Stan," about an Eminem fan with repressed gay tendencies who turns homicidal.
The song's vicious tone is a far cry from John's recent inspirational soft rock, such as the soundtrack to The Lion King. In the duet, John will be taking the role performed on Eminem's album by British pop singer Dido.
Police say they are doubling the number of officers usually assigned to this kind of event, and Grammy organizers say both John and Eminem are taking extra security precautions.
"Outside Staples Center, we're going to have gay groups, we're going to have women's groups, they're going to be having placards, they're going to be letting their positions be known, and I think that's a very, very positive thing," said Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
When John and Eminem meet onstage, it will be a convergence of two pop icons who couldn't be more different.
John, three years ago, was made a knight of the British realm and has been a knight of the gay community for decades after coming out of the closet in Rolling Stone magazine in 1976. He built a huge fan base, despite what was at the time a shocking admission.
"He's a gay icon who has used his gayness for good," said Scott Seomin of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "That good included raising money for AIDS research and speaking out against homophobia."
He led the public mourning for gay friends who were struck down by AIDS, like singer Freddie Mercury of the band Queen. And he's not been without his own inner demons; he's battled drug addiction, alcoholism and eating disorders. Throughout his career, he sang about passion and perseverence.
Eminem sings about hate and violence. Gays are one target of his wrath, especially in the song "Criminal."
"Hate fags? The answer's yes," he raps.
Eminem reportedly said these are the words of his fictional alter ego, trash-talking Slim Shady, but critics say his music is dangerous.
"The real danger lies in Eminem's fan base, easily influenced adolescent males. The word 'fag' goes in the earphone and out their mouth the next day," Seomin said.
Elton John pushed the limits of what was socially acceptable in his outrageous 1970s stage show. But gay groups now say their hero is being used by their enemy.
"Elton John agreeing to share the grammy stage with Eminem is just baffling. This is a betrayal to the gay and lesbian community. This is not the Sir Elton John that we know and love," Seomin said.
Eminem has consistently defended his music as mocking, sarcastic, and humorous.
"The kids -- they're taking my music for what it's worth. You know what I mean? They're taking it with a grain of salt," he said.
But why would John want to get on the same stage as this angry, anti-gay rapper? John says he's a fan of Eminem's.
"I think there's far more humor on Eminem's album than people think," he said. "I honestly don't think people will go out and start beating and killing people because of this album."
And the rapper returns the favor, perhaps showing a heretofore-unknown soft spot for soft pop.
"As far as like Elton John liking my s---, I think it's beautiful," Eminem said. "I think he gets the joke and I respect him as an artist."