Clintons greet honorees at White House

GOOD MORNING FROM WASHINGTON: Sunday night at the White House, before departing for a NATO meeting, president Clinton laughed, saying “I can’t believe I’m going to be in Budapest tomorrow morning.” The president and Hillary Clinton greeted and congratulated the Kennedy Center Honorees in the East Room of the White House. After making his complimentary remarks to Kirk Douglas, the President said “The question when this administration is finished is, will the ending be more like “Spartacus’ or ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’?” The president did not stand in the usual receiving line for the black tie’d guests at the White House, leaving it to the First Lady to greet the guests alongside the magnificent Christmas Tree in the Blue Room … The festive mood of the ceremony at the State Dept. where the five honorees were presented their medals was tempered by an atmosphere of apprehension. Not only was concern about future finances for the arts the topic among guests/performers, but the words of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot (sitting in for Warren Christopher, who’s in Europe) were cautionary. He warned, “In these difficult times of change, politics doesn’t matter.” But most feared that it does. When Talbot gave thanks to Tom Foley and George Mitchell for their support of the arts during the Demo reign, both received prolonged applause. James D. Wolfensohn, chairman of the Kennedy Center, addressing the group in the always-impressive State Dept. great hall, brought the crowd to its feet when he announced that Jack Smith of General Motors had given $ 1 million to the Kennedy Center that night. Also there getting a bow was CBS’ Larry Tisch. The special will air on his network. Further evidence of the feeling in D.C. was expressed by one outgoing lawmaker, who said to Alan and Marilyn Bergman, “Thanks for writing our song –‘The Way We Were.’ ”

AS REVEALED HERE LAST FRIDAY, President Clinton had to forego attending the awards gala after greeting the honorees and guests at Sunday afternoon’s cocktail’er, and so Hillary invited Caroline Kennedy and her husband, Ed Schlossberg, Pamela Harriman and the Gores to join her in the presidential box in the Kennedy Center. Actor Christopher Plummer was the m.c. for Saturday night’s presentation of medals to the honorees. Introducing Kirk Douglas, Plummer called him “the first anti-hero who became a star.” Jack Valenti was called upon to deliver the traditional toast to his longtime friend. Valenti reminded it was Kirk who “destroyed the Hollywood blacklist forever.” He told how Douglas demanded that Dalton Trumbo’s name be fully credited onscreen for “Spartacus” despite warning and advice from friends that the decision would destroy Douglas as well. Kirk was surrounded by wife Anne, sons Michael, Peter and Eric and handsome grandson Cameron, now taller than his father, Michael. Eric told me he was doing two Improv gigs in D.C. over the weekend. Aretha Franklin was toasted by Herbie Hancock, who said, “When she opened up her pipes, she filled everybody’s life with courage and compassion.” ASCAP president Marilyn Bergman, who led the toast to Morton Gould, revealed the multitalented Gould “could have been a comedian, actor — or statesman!”… Complimenting honoree Hal Prince, Plummer, who got an early B’way start from him, said, “He chartered a new direction for the Great White Way.” George C. Wolfe, head of the Public Theater, where Prince brings his next show, said Prince “knows better than anyone how to make a show soar.” For honoree Pete Seeger, Plummer noted, “He summoned music from the heart of America.” Arlo Guthrie, before toasting Seeger, cracked, “The reason I had to come here tonight was to see Peter in a tux!” Seeger received prolonged applause. I noted Seeger, stranger to these fancy parts, was soaking up some of the great paintings and artifacts of American history in the magnificent anterooms leading into the State Dept.’s great hall, over which chandeliers sparkled.

AMONG GUESTS ON HAND WAS writer Peter Stone, who said he and Michael Jackson are making good progress on the musicalized, modern “Romeo & Juliet” for a feature film. Kathleen Turner said she returns to B’way in February in “Infidelities,” a five-character play which, she noted, is in direct contrast to the current big musicals a la “Show Boat.” Among past Kennedy Center honorees there, Fayard Nicholas. The weekend would not have been possible, Wolfensohn reminded, without the work of co-chairs Buffy Cafritz and Donna McLarty, Liz (Mrs. George) Stevens and committee heads including Caroline Peachey. Sunday morning, Liz and George Stevens Jr. hosted a brunch in the host hotel Ritz-Carlton’s famed Fairfax Bar where showbiz and politix mixed in advance of the trek to the White House reception at 5 p.m.

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content