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Kennedy Center honors performing artists

By Thelisha A. Woods
On December 6, 2001

What do actor Jack Nicholson, composer and producer Quincy Jones, pianist Van Cliburn, singer Luciano Pavarotti and actress Julie Andrews all have in common? Besides being some of Hollywood's top heavyweights, they all are now official John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art Honors inductees. The red carpet was rolled out Sunday night in a celebrity-filled gala at the Kennedy Center's Opera House where the five entertainers were all honored for their lifetime achievements in the arts during the 24th annual Kennedy Center celebration of the arts. An awards event, as well as a fundraiser, the gala raised funds for the arts and also recognized the artists. They are now among the ranks of such legendary artists as singers Stevie Wonder and Marion Williams, and actors Sean Connery and Sidney Poitier.

When asked how it felt to be honored at such an event, Quincy Jones summed it up in one simple word: "Incredible!" Jack Nicholson and Luciano Pavarotti added a little touch of mystery and comedy while making their grand entrance on the red carpet. Nicholson, best known for films like "A Few Good Men" and "The Shining," wore his customary dark sunglasses while Pavarotti wore a delightful straw hat which he tipped whimsically for all those wanting pictures.

While all of the honorees were dressed in their finest attire, the one accessory they were probably most proud of was the award medal they all hung proudly around their necks. The gold, red and blue ribbon had three small gold bars on either side and one in the middle of the ribbon.
The recipients were chosen for their contribution in various fields of the performing arts, according to members of the Kennedy Center.

"For the unique and extremely valuable contributions they have made to the cultural life of our nation," said Kennedy Center chairman James A. Johnson, "we honor a beloved actress whose performances and films and the musical theater are treasured by millions of Americans, a musician who has had a spectacular influence on all facets of American popular music for more than 50 years, one of the most brilliant and celebrated actors of our age, a pianist whose stellar career bears witness to the life-affirming power of music and a singer whose unique voice has attracted new fans to opera in the United States and the world."

Honors recommendations for the honorees were made by the 93 members of the Kennedy Center's national artist committee. Artists on the board include Carol Burnett, Leontyne Price, Aretha Franklin and Harrison Ford.

Many big names came out for the night of celebration, from actor Danny Glover to politician Mark Warner to housekeeping icon Martha Stewart to television talk show host Oprah Winfrey. President Bush and the First Lady, Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney sat in the President's Box with all the honorees. This appearance by both leaders of our nation was significant because it is the first time since Sept. 11th that they have made a public appearance together.

Before the show and in the early hours of it, the press and the public stood beside the red carpet hoping to get an autograph or picture of the celebrities.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Quincy Jones and Jack Nicholson, who are two of my favorites," said John Brown of Maryland. "It's nice to be at the red carpet and watch the celebrities go by, and I am looking forward to a star-studded event."

Other fans wanted to catch a glimpse of the stars in hopes of making the same stardom their own one day.

"I have come here (to the Honors) the last three years, and I come just to see the celebrities and try and see if I can make a connection," said Nicole Landsberger of D.C. "It's a good time to try and network because I am trying to get into the acting business."

For those unable to attend the event, which had tickets for up to $25,000, the event will be televised in a two-hour prime time special on CBS Dec. 26 at 9 p.m. EST.

Contact Thelisha Woods at

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