The pop superstar met dozens of service members while working on the special "VH1 Divas Salute the Troops" this weekend near San Diego.
"There was a kid who I met backstage who was rather chatty, but adorable," Perry recalled. "He was really sweet. He was 19. He had such a good heart. He said, 'Yes, ma'am' to me. 'Yes ma'am!' I was like, 'O.K.! Yes, sir!"'
A VH1 publicist estimated an audience of 27,000 attended nearly three-hour taping of the concert Friday night at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar. The show, which airs Sunday night, features a bounty of what the network has dubbed "divas" - female or female-lead musical acts, including established stars such as Heart, Paramore and Sugarland, as well as hot newcomers Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Keri Hilson and Nicki Minaj.
But if one diva emerged supreme, it was Perry, who both opened and closed the show, and performed solo or with others on a half-dozen songs -- twice that of anyone else in the lineup.
"I really had to live up to the definition of a 'diva' in all senses of the word," Perry joked. "So, I had to be very difficult today, and late," she continued, adding she was really neither and then referencing Beyonce's song "Diva" and then losing the lyric. "Blaaah! Obviously I'm not Beyonce," Perry laughed. "She is the true diva."
Onstage, Perry pulled out the stops - and the costumes - with the opening number featuring Perry, Hilson and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles in WAC uniforms for a cover of The Andrews Sisters' '40s classic "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
Perry closed the show with her current smash "Firework," which concluded, appropriately, with a fireworks display. For that finale, Perry wore a cherry-red beaded gown with thigh-high slit that looked as if it was borrowed from Jessica Rabbit's closet. "You know me, I love vintage," Perry explained. "I love pinup girls. So, I tried to recreate that. I think any Army guy has a soft spot for a girl that can be painted on their plane."
Perry, 26, and her new husband, actor Russell Brand, will be spending their first holiday season together as husband and wife. "What do I want for Christmas? Well, I think what is appropriate now is, I hope the troops come home very safely," she replied, then delivered a message to service members.
"Be careful out there during the holidays," Perry told them. "Keep your Skype and your iChat on because I know some of them are away from all their family and wives. I can understand that feeling every once in awhile because I am on the battlefield myself, but I am just singing pop songs," she laughed.
"But, I am away from my hubby every once in awhile, and we use Skype and iChat and that really helps. So I just hope everybody can find a great Christmas and be blessed."