- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

This year's Kennedy Center Honors weekend, highlighting the artistry of Julie Andrews, Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Jack Nicholson, and Luciano Pavarotti, let the group's peers give thanks for their lifetimes of creative splendor.

The 24th annual festivities, two days jammed with brunches, dinners, a White House reception and a gala, featured a cornucopia of stars eager to tip their hats to the honorees.
The gala last night at the Kennedy Center also had a somber spirit in keeping with changed times since the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and the Washington area.
The presence onstage last evening of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spoke on behalf of opera wunderkind Pavarotti, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's tribute to piano superstar Cliburn were additional reminders that the arts often are at one with politics in the world. President Bush and first Lady Laura Bush smiled down on those being honored on an evening when even the stagehands wore tuxedos.Vice President Richard B. Cheney, kept apart from the president recently because of security concerns, was there with his wife, Lynne. As expected, security was extremely tight, with senators, members of the Cabinet and Honorees passing through metal detectors at the entrance. Even Queen Noor of Jordan's royal minaudiere got a thorough inspection.
Guests included Secretary of State Colin Powell; Lynda Carter; Jimmy Buffett; Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat; Sen Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; Lynn Redgrave; Ron Silver; and Cicely Tyson.
No fewer than six choruses were onstage at the grand finale of the evening's rousing show. Acclaimed soprano Renee Fleming joined the Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus, the Boy and Girl Choristers of National Cathedral, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the Choristers of St. Paul's Parish, the Eastern High School Choir and the U.S. Naval Academy Men's Glee Club.
The finale also had a sober, sentimental touch with the inclusion of the song "Take Care of This House," written by the late Leonard Bernstein and Alan J. Lerner both past honorees for the musical "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
After succinct introductions to those being honored from master of ceremonies Walter Cronkite "a long tall Texan who with his 10 [fingers] and a Steinway struck a chord that bridged East and West (Mr. Cliburn); a kid from Neptune, N.J., who has ridden high with a devil's grin, a rebel's heart and an actor's gift (Mr. Nicholson); an ingenue from England who dared greatness in America (Miss Andrews)" the entertainment began.
It included many film and video tapes showing career highlights of those being honored.
The irrepressibly crafty Mr. Nicholson heard himself teased and praised in turn by Hollywood friends Candice Bergen, Annette Bening and Michael Douglas. Miss Bergen said "he was voted both class optimist and class pessimist the same year in high school." Mr. Douglas quoted George Bernard Shaw: "You use a glass mirror to see your face, you use works of art to see your soul."
There was plenty of soul, too, in the homage given Mr. Cliburn by Miss Rice, a fledgling concert pianist turned international political expert. Recalling Mr. Cliburn's 1958 triumph in Moscow as the first American ever to win the prestigious Tchaikovsky competition, she cited him as "cultural ambassador, introducing many Americans to classical Russian composers and introducing many Russians to classic American character traits with his personal openness, spontaneity and sincerity. When I was growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Van Cliburn was the only American pianist I knew by name. In fact, I wanted to be Van Cliburn."
The 2001 winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Olga Kern of Russia, performed with Miss Fleming in two songs by Sergey Rachmaninoff. The Alexandria Harmonizers followed with a rousing chorus of "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You," with Mr. Cliburn joining in the singing.
Comedian-actress Carol Burnett reminisced about her first meeting with her friend Miss Andrews, calling her both "unflappable" and "bawdy." The two met 41 years ago in New York and have stayed close, even performing together professionally in a number of TV specials. Patrick Wilson, Kristin Chenoweth, Robert Goulet, Audra McDonald and British actor Jeremy Irons gave a reprise of some of Miss Andrews' famous Broadway roles in "The Sound of Music" and "My Fair Lady."
Dance did not go unnoticed, though none of those receiving Honors were dancers. A pair of dancers from Moscow, Lyudmila Semenyaka and Irek Mukhamedov of the Bolshoi Ballet, who flew in for the occasion, and Angel Corella and Paloma Herrera of American Ballet Theatre performed in an interlude.
Fittingly enough, Marilyn Horne, a 1995 Honors recipient, sang her tribute to Mr. Pavarotti, while Mr. Annan made more of the tenor's role as humanitarian than of his vocal accomplishments. This native of Modena, Italy, he said, "personified the mission stated in the United Nations' charter: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
"Tonight the world as we knew it even six months ago seems a lifetime away. How many people around the world were paying attention to the plight of children in Afghanistan? Luciano, you did pay attention. When Afghanistan was still a forgotten emergency, you devoted your concert in Modena to relief for Afghan refugees particularly children."
Friendship was celebrated in another exalted round with the appearance of TV personality Oprah Winfrey on behalf of Mr. Jones, who had selected the then-unknown would-be actress for a role in the film "The Color Purple," which he produced.
Coming together for a jam session were 1986 Honoree Ray Charles, one of Mr. Jones' mentors, and 1999 Honoree Stevie Wonder. Others among Mr. Jones' friends and proteges who joined in were drummer Teddy Campbell, pianist Herman Jackson, bassist Rickey Minor and guitarist Paul Jackson, along with singers James Ingram and Patti Austin
The chamber was jumping as participants crowded onto the stage amid cheers and extended applause. Mr. Cronkite's farewell "So that's the way it is. And that's the way it's been" signaled the conclusion of the show, to be seen Dec. 26 at 9 p.m. on CBS TV.

Earlier yesterday, the Bushes held a reception at the White House for the five Honors recipients and nearly 400 guests. Contrary to past practice, the administration barred reporters and photographers from the reception. Journalists heard his speech through nearby loudspeakers.
The president paid tribute to the Honorees and, in keeping with his custom, teased them.
"The recipients for 2001 make quite a collection," Mr. Bush said at a White House reception. "This year's Honorees can carry a tune. And then there's Jack."
He also told the story of President Reagan explaining to his chief of staff why he had not read a briefing book during an international conference. "'The Sound of Music' was on last night," Mr. Reagan told the aide. Mr. Bush added: "The face and voice of Julie Andrews has that effect on a lot of people."
The president quipped to Mr. Jones: "For all your marvelous work, America thanks you, Q, and so does W."
At Saturday evening's dinner at the State Department, where the medals actually were presented, Mr. Powell overseeing the evening's festivities, called Mr. "like a brother to me."
"He sends me letters; he worries about me," Mr. Powell said.
Miss Winfrey, wrapped in a gold shawl and with steady beau Steadman Graham at her side, said Mr. Jones' longevity has more to do with his kindness than his artistic prowess.
"Despite everything he's done musically, It's Quincy's heart" that sets him apart, Miss Winfrey said of her friend. "Every single person he meets becomes a special person to him. I've seen it happen again and again."
Mr. Nicholson, flashing his rapscallion mug to questioners at a pre-dinner reception, said he could not compare his Honors award with earning three Oscar statuettes.
Michael Douglas, who produced Mr. Nicholson's Oscar-winning "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," said casting the actor as a troubled mental patient seems like an easy choice now. It wasn't so simple then.
"Before 'Cuckoo's Nest,' he was known for sensitive-young-man roles," said Mr. Douglas, his slick hair reminiscent of his 1987 Oscar turn as Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street."
Tony-winning singer Kristin Chenoweth beamed at the thought of meeting her soprano idol, Miss Andrews.
"Any little girl in America, if you're a soprano, she's singing for you," said the tiny, tanned Miss Chenoweth. "My biggest dream I ever had is to meet her, like every other little girl."
Honoree Mr. Pavarotti sat amiably amid the throngs, his jet-black beard framing his glowing visage.
Mr. Pavarotti said the honor buoyed his already elevated zest for performing.
"I'm going back to singing with more passion and determination than before," he said, then added in his familiar Italian accent, "I'm always very determined."

Earlier Saturday, at a luncheon at the Kennedy Center, Mr. Nicholson brought down the house with a Jokeresque eyebrow motion when center Chairman James M. Johnson introduced him as an actor "who gave voice to anger in his films." A few moments later, Mr. Nicholson was mugging shamelessly to the audience again when he hogged a second bow after the by then seriously upstaged Mr. Johnson attempted to recognize Mr. Pavarotti in absentia. (The tenor was scheduled to arrive in Washington later that afternoon.)
The crowd contained many Pavarotti admirers.
"He is so-o-o big, I just disappeared when he picked me up," said opera star Roberta Peters, who affectionately remembered performing Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto" with the burly tenor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1983.
Kitty Carlisle Hart had met all those being honored during her many years as doyenne of the New York arts scene, but it was Julie Andrews for whom she had the longest and fondest regard. After all, it was Mrs. Hart's late husband, Broadway playwright and impresario Moss Hart, who cast Miss Andrews in "My Fair Lady," the actress's first starring role, in the 1950s.
"She was just 20 and was very insecure," Mrs. Hart recalled. "Moss dismissed the company and took her alone onstage to rehearse. For the first 10 days I could hear his voice in everything she said, but then she made the part her own."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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