- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ain’t that Mellencamp

Politics stopped at the water’s edge Friday night when singer and war opponent John Mellencamp performed a free concert for wounded troops and their families at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“This is better than a small club — no cover charge, no minimum,” said one of Mr. Mellencamp’s fellow Indianans, Sen. Evan Bayh.

Mr. Mellencamp’s goal was to recreate the intimacy of the late Johnny Cash’s legendary 1968 concert at California’s Folsom State Prison, said his publicist, Bob Merlis. He was willing to play in a cafeteria.

Hospital administrators chose one of the Red Cross’ historic buildings — about the size of D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

An ecstatic crowd of about 200 gathered in front of a narrow wooden stage, where Mr. Mellencamp and his energetic six-piece band showcased songs from his underrated new album, “Freedom’s Road,” as well as old faves such as “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” and “Jack and Diane.” The 55-year-old rocker also introduced a riveting solo acoustic version of his hit “Lonely Ol’ Night.”

Mr. Mellencamp’s wife and 12-year-old son, Mike, watched from the side of the stage as television cameras zoomed overhead. (The concert was broadcast live on the cable network HDNet.)

Mr. Mellencamp landed in the District on Thursday to tour the Walter Reed campus and greet patients. Retired Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Karl Dorman, who was outfitted with a robotic prosthetic leg, happened to have an acoustic guitar handy when he met Mr. Mellencamp at the physical therapy department. He coaxed Mr. Mellencamp into an impromptu “Pink Houses.”

“We sang together loud and proud,” Mr. Dorman said.

— Scott Galupo

All that jazz

Along with a spectacular performance by Grammy-winning jazz diva Dianne Reeves, Friday night’s sell-out crowd at the Lincoln Theatre also got the scoop on the lineup for the District’s third annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival (scheduled for Sept. 9 through 17) from festival founder and executive producer Charlie Fishman.

On the bill: Cuban jazz great Paquito D’Rivera (who also serves as the festival’s artistic adviser), jazz legends Clark Terry, James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Slide Hampton, Roy Hargrove, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Nnenna Freelon, Danilo Perez, Steve Turre, David Sanchez, Claudio Roditi, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Orchestra, the United Nations Orchestra and Sol con Timba Octet.

Concerts will take place at venues throughout the city including the Mall, the THEARC campus in Anacostia and various jazz clubs along the U Street corridor.

— Robyn-Denise Yourse

Dangerous kisses

Bollywood megastar Aishwarya Rai has been summoned to explain an “obscene” kissing scene, Indian officials said Saturday, just days after a similar row engulfed Hollywood’s Richard Gere.

Miss Rai, 33, was ordered to appear before a district court over a scene in which she is kissed lightly on the cheek.

Her “Dhoom-II” co-star Hrithik Roshan and the owners of a cinema that screened the action film have also been summoned to Muzaffarpur court in the eastern state of Bihar on May 30.

The summons came after a district court in another state issued arrest warrants for Mr. Gere and Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, whom he kissed enthusiastically at an HIV/AIDS awareness show this month in New Delhi.

The incident triggered a public storm in India, known for its chaste public behavior despite Bollywood’s sexually suggestive song-and-dance routines.

Radical Hindus burned effigies of Mr. Gere, 57, in India’s entertainment hub Bombay and organized street protests in several cities.

Mr. Gere later offered a “sincere apology” for any offense he caused.

In both cases the celebrities are accused of indulging in “obscene acts,” which carries a penalty of three months imprisonment, a fine or both.

Public acts of endearment are banned in India under the British-era Obscenity Act.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from staff and wire reports.

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