June 19, 1989 12:00 PM

Hollywood’s got its Oscar, Broadway’s got its Tony, and although the idea is as logical as a chorus of yeah, yeah, yeah, rock and rollers had to wait until now to get their very own statuette. Thanks to the International Rock Awards, held in Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue armory, music makers who can’t find a suitable Grammy category or have too much voltage to kick into the Country Music Association Awards can wail on in pursuit of the rockers-only trophy: a 12-inch bronze miniature of—who else?—Elvis.

Televised live from a stage of toppled Stonehenge-style Styrofoam columns, the first annual ceremony was a reunion of longtime rocksters: Robert Palmer, Lou Reed, David Bowie (with his new band, Tin Machine), Eric Clapton, Alice Cooper and Keith Richards, who won the Living Legend Award. Relatively fresh faces on the scene included Newcomer of the Year winners Living Colour—hard rock’s biggest black band since Sly and the Family Stone. There were some notable absentees, among them: Lead Male Vocalist, Bono; Most Valuable Bass Player, Sting; and Most Valuable Drummer, Phil Collins. Madonna was another no-show, and her Lead Female Vocalist Award incited a chorus of boos from the audience—a statement, producer Bill Zysblat speculated, that she’s more pop tart than rock queen.

After a group jam of Richards and Clapton’s favorite,” I Hear You Knocking,” the musicians repaired to a downtown nightclub where they were joined by celebs of lateral status: Sean Penn, Grace Jones, race car driver Danny Sullivan, Phoebe Snow. It was very exclusive, but not, as the Palmer song goes, “Simply Irresistible.” “I’ll have more fun,” sighed Ric Ocasek’s date, model Paulina Porizkova, “when I go home.”

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