Hollywood and Broadway giants take Washington honors

Mon Dec 8, 2008 3:10am EST
 
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By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rock 'n' roll legends, singers and stars of Hollywood and Broadway were saluted on Sunday for their lifetime contributions to American culture with a gala performance attended by President George W. Bush.

Song and screen icon Barbra Streisand, country music legend George Jones, film star Morgan Freeman, choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of the British rock band "The Who" were honored with performances by friends and contemporaries.

The six artists were awarded Kennedy Center Honors, the top U.S. award for lifetime achievements in popular culture and the arts, at a reception a day earlier.

Biographical video montages and poignant personal tributes recalled their beginnings and celebrated their contributions.

Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington recounted some advice he got from Morgan Freeman when he suggested improvising a fight during a Shakespeare production in 1979.

"He said 'All right, Denzel. We click the swords three times -- click, click, click. I stab you. You fall down, and you die," Washington said to laughter from the politicians, prominent donors and other guests at the black-tie gala.

First lady Laura Bush said she and her husband were fans of George Jones, whose origins she traced to the honky-tonk bars of East Texas and whose tunes are on the president's iPod.

Bush hugged Streisand warmly in a video of a White House reception earlier in the day, despite her being a prominent critic of his disputed 2000 election and subsequent record in the White House.   Continued...