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MTV Video Music Awards: What you didn't know about 5 iconic ‘VMA’ moments

It's time for the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards! And the 31st edition of the annual awards show it's sure to create some buzzworthy moments, with the always buzzy Kim Kardashian as a Moonman presenter, as well as a list of celebs that includes Gwen Stefani, Demi Lovato, and Jason Derulo.

MTV Video Music Awards 2009
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Beyonce, 5 Seconds of Summer, Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora, Maroon 5, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift and Usher will also hit the stage, after a must-see opening performance featuring Jessie J, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande with the song “Bang Bang.”

But can this year's lineup trump some of the annual show's most memorable past performances? Here's a look back at five of the most iconic VMA performances -- and what you didn't know about them.

Madonna- “Like a Virgin (1984)

The Material Girl was a virgin -- to the MTV stage, at least -- when she performed a racy rendition of her then-unknown song, "Like A Virgin" at the very first MTV VMAs back in 1984. But while her stage-rolling and garter-showing looked pre-planned, Madge begged to differ. According to Yahoo! Music, an MTV exec revealed that Madonna originally wanted to bring a full grown Bengal tiger onstage, but when that idea was nixed a 17-foot wedding cake was built instead. Madge later told late night host Jay Leno that she accidentally lost her white stiletto during her debut VMA performance, so she "dove" onto the floor to retrieve it-- thus the spontaneous slither across the floor and the subsequent fanny flashing. "I didn't mean to," she said.

Britney Spears - "I'm a Slave 4 U" (2001)

Nearly two decades later, Britney Spears actually got a tiger-- as well as a bright yellow python-- for her 2001 VMA performance of the song "I'm a Slave 4 U." But Spears also endured the wrath of PETA for her use of exotic animals in the performance. While she later apologized for the incident, it didn't stop her from later utilizing elephants for her “Circus” video, and dressing them in circus attire, no less! PETA slammed the pop princess once again, so she opted to leave Dumbo at home come tour time. But whatever became of her beloved VMA snake? A 2012 Twitter check-in by Brit revealed that the snake (named Banana!) is alive and well.

Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera- “Hollywood” (2003)

Speaking of Madonna and Britney, back in 2003 they had a threesome – with Christina Aguilera! But the highly-controversial three-way kiss almost went another way. Entertainment Weekly revealed that MTV Music Group President Van Toffler later said that Jennifer Lopez had actually been tapped to be part of the girl on girl action. "Originally, J.Lo was in the mix," Toffler told the magazine. "That didn't happen. And Britney and Madonna, they had history so it was not easy to get them together on the stage. [But] Britney and Christina [Aguilera] obviously respected Madonna. Only she could pull that off."

Nirvana - "Lithium" (1992)

Alternative rocker band Nirvana caused all kinds of hijinks at the 1992 VMAs. In addition to famously performing the first few lines of their song "Rape Me" (after assuring network execs that they wouldn't play it), they quickly segued into the agreed-upon song, "Lithium." But that performance ended with drummer Dave Grohl taunting Guns 'N Roses frontman Axl Rose in response to an earlier backstage run-in. Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain decided to spit on Rose's piano keys minutes before G'N R was slated to perform the song "November Rain." In a 1993 interview with Guitar World, Cobain said, "I spat on Axl's keyboards when we were sitting on the stage. It was either that or beat him up … I saw his piano there, and I just had to take this opportunity and spit big goobers all over his keyboards."

Too bad the legendary Elton John sat down at the piano instead, to accompany G'N R on their epic tune! In a 2002 interview, Nirvana's former guitar tech Ernie Bailey said, "When the pianos arose for the duet's intro to 'November Rain', Elton was seated at the piano whose keys Kurt had spat upon. I'm not sure which was funnier, Kurt's horror at what he had done, or the sight of Elton John hammering away on that piano."

RuPaul and Milton Berle - Viewer's Choice Award ( 1993)

In 1993, RuPaul and Milton Berle famously paired up to present the MTV's Viewer's Choice Award. But RuPaul decided to work it with an ad-libbed line directed at the Hollywood legend: "So you used to wear gowns, but now you're wearing diapers." A stunned Berle replied, "Oh, we're going to ad lib? I'll check my brain and we'll start even." RuPaul went on to mock Berle, and while many felt Ru was disrespectful to the legendary comic, MTV revealed that the duo did not get along backstage.

The "Supermodel" singer later wrote: "The Milton Berle incident is a perfect example of me ignoring my gut when he was power tripping me in the dressing room. Before we went on stage I got very mad at myself for allowing him to treat me that way and decided to get him back, live on stage in front of 20 million people. I made a big fool out of myself that night, all because my ego was hurt."

The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards airs Sunday, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. on MTV.

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