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Kennedy Center Honors

This is the 25th anniversay of the Kennedy Center Honors. Five performers were honored, including James Earl Jones:

    James Earl Jones possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices in entertainment history: a commanding basso profundo with a built-in echo chamber that is the very sound of authority. Jones’ great range as a performer has made him a legendary American artist. He is a major classical stage actor-his performances as Lear and Othello are towering achievements-but as the voice of Darth Vader, he is evil incarnate to the billions of Star Wars fanatics. At once he is recognized by theatergoers as one of the foremost interpreters of great contemporary playwrights such as August Wilson and Athol Fugard, and loved and respected by a generation of youngsters as the lion patriarch Mufasa in Disney’s animated film, The Lion King. A giant of a man physically, Jones’ reputation as an actor is of roughly the same proportions. In The Washington Post, theater writer David Richards wrote: “It’s not just his physical size that is imposing, what clinches the impression is the elemental force he brings to his roles. Jones’ resonant voice is capable of moving in seconds from boyish ingenuousness to near-biblical rage and somehow suggesting all the gradations in between.”…

My acting teacher in college was a former Broadway star-turned teacher, and she was good friends with Jones. He came and spoke to our class at Wittenberg in the late ’70s – very friendly but powerful figure and fully in charge of that voice. Wow.

James Levine:

    He has led American opera into a glorious golden age, establishing the Metropolitan Opera as the world’s beacon of operatic splendor through his three decades with the company. James Levine made his Met debut in 1971, became principal conductor in 1973, music director in 1976 and then the company’s first artistic director in 1986. With commitment and distinction that are rare in any opera company anywhere, Levine has given his life to making music and drama of unparalleled excellence and sublime
    beauty.

    His genius belongs to the world and the world has honored him often. Levine is a regular guest of the Vienna Philharmonic, of the Dresden Staatskapelle and of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and he has directed major productions at the Salzburg and Ravinia Festivals. He is presently director of the Munich Philharmonic, and there is great anticipation of his coming directorship of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2004….

Chita Rivera:

    There is no one like Chita Rivera. Indomitable, vibrant and sexy, she has been called the ultimate crossover performer, as an actress, singer and above all dancer. From West Side Story to Kiss of the Spider Woman, from Can-Can to The Rink she has been the inspiration for our theater’s most electrifying creators, including Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb. She has triumphed on stage on both sides of the Atlantic. “My body is the sum total of all the choreographers who have trained me,” Rivera has said, but she adds up to much more. She once led a crowd of 50,000 dancing the macarena at Yankee Stadium, and she has spent more than half a century entertaining millions. The New York Times has called her “the most exciting night club performer in the business,” but it is as a Broadway baby that the world loves her best.

Paul Simon:

    Faith is at the heart of American culture, faith above all in humanity’s possibilities. This has been the key to Paul Simon’s songs throughout a career rich in musical exploration and deep commitment. His work embraces a world of poetry and music that knows no frontiers, from folk music and do-wop, salsa and rockabilly, to ancient African rhythms and the minimalism of the new American century. But generosity, love and faith run through each tale in Simon’s songs. “And I believe in the future,” he confessed in the song “Cool, Cool River” from his epic 1990 album Rhythm of Saints, “we shall suffer no more / Maybe not in my lifetime / But in yours I feel sure.”

    Paul Fredric Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey, to a Hungarian-Jewish family. His mother was a music teacher, his father a bass player on the radio. The boy grew up in Queens, New York City, and attended Forest Hills High School alongside Art Garfunkel. The friends together sang Paul’s first song, “The Girls for Me,” when they were both 15. Billed as Tom and Jerry, the two had their first hit record at 16: “Hey Schoolgirl,” a disarmingly romantic rocker that got the boys their first gig on “American Bandstand” as well as their first appearance on the Billboard charts. Tom and Jerry went their separate ways after high school, but Simon and Garfunkel soon got together again and American music would never be the same.

See also here.

Elizabeth Taylor:

    More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon – what movies are as an art and an industry, and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark,” wrote the venerable film critic Vincent Canby in The New York Times. One of Hollywood’s most indelible icons, Taylor has been in the public eye for six decades. Today, she is indefatigable humanitarian who is credited with raising more than $100 million in the crusade against AIDS. But first and foremost she is a thrilling film actress, the last brilliant star to emerge from the great Hollywood studio system, the heart of nearly 60 motion pictures, the muse of some of the movies’ most revered film directors, including Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, John Huston, George Cukor, Vincente Minnelli, Richard Brooks, Franco Zefferelli, and Mike Nichols, and the screen’s finest interpreter of the works of two giants of the American theater – Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee.

USA Today was there:

    Longtime Taylor friend Michael Jackson was not there. When asked if he had been invited, veteran producer and director George Stevens Jr. said, ”We didn’t extend ourselves disproportionately. He was busy in a hotel room, on a balcony with a baby,” he added with a smile.

    Stevens also said that ”Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton and Jimmy Dean would be at the top of the list” for a Taylor tribute, but they, too, were not available.

I like that one: equating Michael Jackson with dead actors.

Colin Powell had them rolling in the aisles:

    Of honoree Jones, he said: ”I can’t escape the brother. I may be in Katmandu, Asia or Africa, trying to get some rest. And I flick that clicker and hear (Jones say): ‘This is CNN.’ ”

    Powell wiggled his hips, singing ”I like to be in America!” from West Side Story for Rivera, the first Latina to receive a Kennedy Center Honor and who wowed audiences in 1957 when she starred in the play on Broadway.

    To Levine, he likened diplomatic relations to that of a conductor’s job — managing egos and getting everybody on the same sheet of music. ”If you ever get tired of the Met, I have a job for you at the United Nations.”

    He told Simon that he could relate to the rocker’s music, because he grew up in the South Bronx. ”It wasn’t Paul, it was me and Julio down by the schoolyard.”

    Of Taylor, Powell said she was a woman of ”passion with a capital P,” but also ”a woman of great compassion as well.”

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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