The 7 craziest VMAs moments ever: Kanye West, Britney and Madonna, more

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The VMAs have had no shortage of shocking moments: Insiders take us behind the scenes of Britney Spears' iconic "I'm a Slave 4 U" performance — complete with a live snake an…
At the peak of her pop-superstar powers, Britney Spears could do just about anything — even slither around the stage with a snake at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.

But as fierce as she looked in her iconic performance of "I'm a Slave 4 U," Spears wasn't exactly fearless when she first met the reptile.

"She was very afraid of the python," said Brian Friedman, the routine's co-choreographer, who was also Spears' dance partner. "But that doesn't mean she didn't want to do it. She was like, 'Hell yeah, I'm gonna do it.' But then when you're standing there, and the animal trainer's telling you a laundry list of do's and don'ts that could potentially make the python constrict around your neck, that gets a little bit scary."

Still, Spears faced her fears and "rocked it" with not only the albino Burmese python — known as Banana for his electric yellow color — but a friendly tiger named Bhara with whom the singer made her entrance in a cage. It was a moment that had the Metropolitan Opera house — and MTV viewers around the world — roaring.

The idea to incorporate animals in the performance — which premiered "I'm a Slave 4 U" before the single and its steamy video had been released — came from Friedman's co-choreographer, Wade Robson.

"The song felt very hot and sweaty, tribalistic, animalistic," said Friedman. "And the animal nature of it all lent itself well to this jungle theme."

But Janet Kleinbaum — who booked Spears for the VMAs as senior vice president of marketing and video promotion at the her then-label, Jive Records — had her doubts about this jungle boogie.

"When you get the budget rider and there's an animal handler included, you're just like, 'Wait a minute, what's going on?' " she said. "But Jive Records always supported her. We believed in her, we trusted her, we knew she was always going to bring her absolute best to the stage. So we went with it."

Animal trainer Doc Antle — who you may remember as a colorful, controversial character in the "Tiger…
Chuck Arnold
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