Justin Timberlake, Vanessa Minnillo and others party all week before the big show
Credit: Kevin Mazur/Wireimage; Stephen Lovekin/WireImage

With the MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday night, stars including Jessica Simpson, Vanessa Minnillo and Justin Timberlake have been in New York City all week to host parties, hit the clubs and collect swag from celebrity suites.

Though the awards will be at Radio City Music Hall (check out the nominees here), PEOPLE hit all the hot pre-VMA events – which are sometimes as memorable as the show itself:

• During the day on Tuesday at Marquee, celebs swarmed the Polaroid Lounge, cruising for the perfect freebee: Vanessa Minnillo sipped champagne while booking through the suite in a mere 15 minutes. Why? She was late for work. Still, she collected gear including a camera and a Sidekick, which may come in handy for keeping in touch with Nick Lachey when he’s on the road.

• Later, at the new nightclub Tenjune, celebrities partied the night – er, morning – away, with most stars arriving after midnight: Lance Bass and boyfriend Reichen Lehmkuhl showed up with Laguna Beach’s Lauren "L.C." Conrad and Heidi Montag. The foursome hit the dance floor when Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” blared – but the song that got Bass and Lehmkuhl swaying and singing along was Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

• That same night at the Roxy, Jessica Simpson hosted a party – on roller skates! – to launch her new album, A Public Affair. Even with a bruised vocal cord, Simpson, in a vintage black halter dress, managed to have fun, gliding around the rink to tunes from her album. Outside, her manager dad Joe played it safe when asked about his daughter’s relationship with John Mayer. “My greatest joy as a father is to see my baby be happy,” he told PEOPLE.

Later, Simpson met up with her Dukes of Hazzard costar Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass pals, including Bam Margera.

• Meanwhile, Bungalow 8 was jumping: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen huddled with friends, sipping Red Bull and water. They were characteristically decked out: Ashley in a tight plaid shirt and skinny jeans, Mary-Kate in an empire-waist black dress. They hit the dance floor and whooped it to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

• On Wednesday, several hundred fans packed in to a Best Buy to preview Justin Timberlake‘s album FutureSex/LoveSounds, due Sept. 12. Timberlake, sporting a brown polo, jeans and a brown cap, played songs from the album and chatted with fans, two of whom were even invited to join him onstage. As a parting gift, he gave away two cell phones and $100 bills from his own wallet to each winner.


Next up: the big show – and the after-parties. Keep checking PEOPLE.com for complete VMAs coverage.