White House meeting a first for Kennedy Center honorees

GOOD MORNING:The White House reception for Kennedy Center Honorees on Dec. 2 will be a first visit with President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush for many of the participants — including George Stevens Jr., who produces the show. The honorees this year are Julie Andrews, Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Jack Nicholson and Luciano Pavarotti. Stevens has known presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush pere, and Clinton since the awards launched in 1978. The current White House will continue the tradition of the reception and attendance in the Presidential box … Several of the honorees have appeared for Stevens on past shows: Jones and Stevens produced “The Millennium Show,” Julie hosted Stevens’ “Christmas in Washington,” Nicholson was an AFI Lifetime Achievement winner on the show produced by Stevens. Van Cliburn had been a presenter at the Kennedy Center honors show for Stevens … The honorees whom I was able to reach were understandably excited. Nicholson has never attended a Kennedy Center Honors and said he’ll be there “with bells on.” He’s met Julie and Van Cliburn and notes “I feel like I’ve known Pavarotti a long time; we used his singing in “The Witches of Eastwick.’ ” He’d also been at the White House for Democrats Carter and Clinton. Nicholson and Quincy have been tennis playing pals “since before ‘Five Easy Pieces’ ” … Andrews e-mailed me her reaction, since she is on a “voice rest.” The rest is part of the program of voice rehabilitation, which was started a month ago and in preparation of her European trek (Sept. 18) to promote “The Princess Diaries” which is nearing the $100 million domestic mark. Of course, Disney’s readying a sequel. She said: “As a British citizen, I am so deeply touched and honored to be embraced in this manner … I am overjoyed and ecstatic to receive this great American honors for a lifetime achievement in the arts. The generosity of the American people and its artistic institutions have enabled me to participate in a body of work through the years which has given me great joy and fulfillment.” Andrews has signed a deal with HarperCollins for her own imprint of children’s books, “The Julie Andrews Collection.”

QUINCY JONES CELEBRATED with his “celestial brother” in London after receiving his Kennedy Center news. His “brother’ is Michael Caine with whom, Jones pointed out, “I celebrate my birthday day, month year, hour. And we were pals before we even knew it.” Jones was in London winding producing duties on “Vacuums” with producer Verna Harrah. The pic is written, directed by and starring dance troupe Stomp; it was filmed in Romania with a cast of 70, including 35 original Stomp dancers. Jones had canceled all other activities, including the launch of B’way musical “Sammy,” to wind his autobio “Q.” Doubleday debuts Oct. 16. Simon & Schuster audios, Time mag serializes and Rhino releases a four-CD box set of 74 songs from Jones’ repertoire. He’ll head out on a three-month tour. “It’ll be like going out on the road with Lionel Hampton,” he laughed. The book has been “enormously painful, cathartic and a joy,” he enthused. As he looked back at it all, he was reminded, “This is not a rehearsal!” He notes the timing of the Kennedy Center honors and the release of his book “is fortuitous.” He’s been there before, as a presenter to Ray Charles. The awards will again have Don Mischer working with Stevens, but to a lesser degree: He’s readying the opening (Feb. 8) and closing (Feb. 24) ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. Joining in Kennedy Center producing will be Rob Marshall (who will direct the film “Chicago”); Louis J. Horvitz will again direct the TV show. With four of the nominees involved in music, this Kennedy Center Awards show should be the most tuneful of all time.

OSCAR-WINNING SCREENWRITER Ernest Lehman (85) and wife Laurie (34) are expecting a baby in early April … It’s a wrap today for “Carolina,” Miramax’s feature starring Julia Stiles and Shirley MacLaine. The pic produced by Carol Baum and Lou Pitt and directed by Marleen Gorris and scripted by Katherine Fugate comes in on sked and budget: $8 million. MacLaine tells me the role (covering 20 years) has encouraged her to resume acting. “For a while I lost the fire for acting,” she admitted. She also noted all the scripts offered her included action, violence and/or sci-fi. “Now there are five scripts in which I’m interested” … Carrie Fisher gave a guitar from ex-husband Paul Simon to her brother Todd 15 years ago and he’s now decided to put it up for auction to help raise funds for their mother Debbie Reynolds’ Hollywood Motion Picture Collection. Carrie’s letter goes with the guitar, saying “Simon left this guitar at my house when we were married, and as far as know it is the only alimony I ever received.” The guitar’s being auctioned by fineartsbrokerage.com … Jack LaLanne, 86, guests tonight at the Pacific Pioneer B’casters’ clubroom at the Washington Mutual Bank at Sunset and Vine … Ben Ford, executive chef at Chadwick’s and son of Harrison Ford, is honored tonight with the Great Chefs of L.A. Award at the Beverly Hills Country Club’s 75th anni.

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