- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Stargazing at KenCen

With Hollywood and Broadway descending on the Potomac, why traipse all the way to Tinseltown for gossip?

The star-studded compendium of honorees, celebrity participants, politicians and VIP guests provided more than enough fodder to set tongues atwitter.

— Asked whether she was still singing these days, honoree Joan Sutherland, who gave up her career in 1990, replied: “When I stopped, that was it.”

Not even “Happy Birthday” or singing at church?

“Occasionally, I croak and I growl,” she admitted at the Kennedy Center Honors luncheon Saturday.

— New center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman got the weekend off to a great start at the luncheon — which was attended by 600 guests — when he announced his own personal gift of $10 million over the next six years for new theater productions.

Amid the weekend’s whirlwind, he also paid tribute to retiring center trustees Robert Barnett, Buffy Caffritz, Ken Duberstein, Donna McLarty, Anita Arnold and Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, all board members by presidential appointment.

Was he bothered by the hectic pace? “It’s actually a weekend off,” Mr. Schwarzman replied.

Galas galore

Among the other Honors happenings — in addition to the traditional Kennedy Center luncheon on Saturday, the State Department dinner and the White House pre-reception — before the main event:

— A Friday night dinner hosted by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for center and National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) trustees and members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

— Dinners at Swedish, British and Colombian embassies for members of the center’s national and international boards.

— George and Liz Stevens’ Sunday brunch moved to the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel. “Lots of stargazing here today,” said writer Jane Stanton Hitchcock as a standing-room-only crowd that included all the honorees (except Sir Elton John) plus Aretha Franklin, Robert Downey Jr., Alan Greenspan, Angela Bassett and Dina Merrill mixed and mingled with such establishment figures as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, TV host Charlie Rose, anchorman emeritus Walter Cronkite, lawyer and political insider Vernon Jordan and NSO music director Leonard Slatkin over poached eggs, baby lamb chops and Atlantic salmon.

“Only party in town where people come early” said National Gallery of Art Chairman Vicki Sant.

Seen and heard

— It was a homecoming of sorts for Warren Beatty, who spoke of his student days at Washington and Lee High School in Arlington. “I’d like to go back there someday,” he said before giving former Motion Picture Association chief Jack Valenti a big kiss on the cheek.

— Scuttlebutt from the Saturday State Department dinner: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s rap routine for Mr. Beatty was the hand’s down hit of the evening, said many guests.

“Not only a surprise to see Colin Powell doing it in such a formal setting as the State Department, [it was] also a surprise that he did it so well,” said businessman and center trustee Mel Estrin, who noted that Kid Rock’s exotic clothing made him look like a foreign dignitary in national dress.

— Still, many felt the program was much too long — especially because Mr. Powell’s routine came at the beginning of what turned into a numbing 13/4 hour’s worth of speeches and presentations.

A TV producer who asked not to be named said, “They need to learn the old showbiz rule: Leave ‘em wanting more.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse, from reporting by Kevin Chaffee and Ann Geracimos.

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