- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

Saturday night’s State Department dinner for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors recipients — iconic rocker Bruce Springsteen, Oscar-winning acting legend Robert De Niro; jazz great Dave Brubeck; pioneering opera star Grace Bumbry; and irrepressible comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks — gave G2 the chance to mingle with both Hollywood glitterati and political power players.

Here’s what we caught:

— “The Mel Brooks version of ‘Taxi Driver,’” 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree Mr. De Niro when asked about his favorite movie by fellow honoree Mel Brooks.

— “He can be quiet and reflective,” comic legend and 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree Carol Burnett, on what would surprise people the most about her friend Mr. Brooks.

— “She is the funniest gal who ever lived — and ain’t bad in the back of the car,” Mr. Brooks, about Miss Burnett.

— “For a New Jersey kid, he’s talented,” Mr. Brooks, speaking as a “Brooklynite,” about fellow honoree Mr. Springsteen.

— “We were ‘friends,’ until he started taking my jobs,” Mr. Brooks joking about Mr. De Niro doing more film comedy.

— “I could take a bath in it,” Comedy Central talk show host Jon Stewart on all the Springsteen music he loves.

— “A possibility,” Mr. Brooks on the prospect of working with Mr. De Niro on a project.

— “A drink … or five,”comedian Harvey Keitel on what he would need to describe his friend Mr. De Niro.

— “He’s underrated as a conversationalist,” screenwriter-director-novelist Nora Ephron on Mr. De Niro’s reputation for being a man of few words.

— “Bob is shy, but very smart and valuable,” actress Sharon Stone on Mr. De Niro.

— “The best thing that ever happened to guys who write about criminals,” author-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (“Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “American Gangster”) on Mr. De Niro during a toast to the actor at Saturday’s dinner.

— “The one I am going to perform [at Sunday night’s Honors gala]? It’s a secret” rock star Sting, when asked what Springsteen song he’d be performing during Sunday night’s gala tribute presentation to the Boss (We hear that it will be “The Rising,” one of President Obama‘s campaign songs from the 2008 election).

— Mr. Springsteen’s work is special because it is rooted in “his experience as a middle-class all-American male” — Oscar-winning rocker-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, who divulged that she will perform Mr. Springsteen’s “Born to Run” at Sunday night’s gala.

— “In high school” — Adele Springsteen, on when she knew her son Bruce had special talent. “He was in his bedroom all the time as a child working on music,” she added.

Guests also were asked about their favorite films starring Mr. De Niro:

“Analyze This” — Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy

“Analyze This” — pioneering newswoman Barbara Walters

“King of Comedy” — Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

“Taxi Driver” — actress Sharon Stone

“That one where he plays a boxer” — Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat (before being reminded of the film’s title, “Raging Bull”)

“Raging Bull” — actress-singer Lynda Carter

Also noted …

— Actor-comedian Martin Short jokingly said that “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was his favorite flick by Mr. Brooks. (The film was actually directed by 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree Mike Nichols.)

— Dr. William Kennedy Smith, son of former ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (sister of the late President Kennedy), told us “Rosalita” was one of his favorite Springsteen song. And Mr. Stewart claimed “Thunder Road” as on of his. When asked whether the White House state dinner crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi would be on his show, he replied, “I’m sure they will turn up on my couch without an invitation.”

— Former President Bill Clinton offered the toast to his old friend, jazz legend and honoree Dave Brubeck, who also celebrated his 89th birthday on Sunday. After the dinner, he told us that he has ceded control of his daughter Chelsea‘s wedding to his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, adding that “I like my son-in-law a lot.”

Last week, Miss Clinton, 29, announced her engagement to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky.

What they wore

In their own words

— Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat: “Armani” (black ruffled jacket with long black skirt)

— Actress Sharon Stone: “Galliano” (purple form-fitting gown)

— Oscar winner Meryl Streep: “Valentino” (long-sleeved black cocktail dress)

— Barbara Walters: “vintage Oscar de la Renta” (long gown)

— Caroline Kennedy: black cocktail dress with her mother’s (former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) famous starburst diamond pin. “She gave it to me,” she told us.

To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail undercover@washingtontimes.com.

• Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover can be reached at undercover@washingtontimes.com.

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