Correction to This Article
A photo caption with a Sept. 7 Style article about the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors suggested that the dancer pictured was Suzanne Farrell. It was Chan Hon Goh, in a performance for Farrell's ballet company.

Kennedy Center To Honor Five High-Wattage Cultural Lights

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By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Kennedy Center Honors this year go to solid-gold legends.

The 2005 recipients are screen star Robert Redford, the timeless rocker Tina Turner, crooner extraordinaire Tony Bennett, ballet muse Suzanne Farrell and theatrical legend Julie Harris, the center announced yesterday.

"We honor five extraordinary American artists whose unique and abundant contributions to our culture have transformed our lives," said Stephen A. Schwarzman, the center's chairman. "Tony Bennett is a brilliant musician and singer's singer whom even the great Frank Sinatra called the best there is; Suzanne Farrell's profound artistry has inspired the creation of masterpieces and is teaching ballet to a new generation; for half a century, the enchanting Julie Harris has been one of this country's most acclaimed and revered actors; Robert Redford is an actor and director whose extraordinary support of independent film has had an immeasurable impact on filmmakers and audiences alike; and Tina Turner's sizzling talent and indomitable spirit has made her one of the world's best-loved entertainers."

The Honors, in their 28th year, are among the country's highest tributes to performing artists. The weekend of events that surround the ceremonies has become a highlight of the social and cultural season. This year the Honors will be presented Dec. 3 at the State Department, followed the next evening with an all-star show for the honorees at the center.

Farrell danced at the first Honors evening, when the center saluted master choreographer George Balanchine, dancer Fred Astaire, songwriter Richard Rodgers, classical singer Marian Anderson and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.

"To have been part of that evening -- and now I am truly honored and privileged," said Farrell, who now makes Washington her home and whose ballet company is supported by the center. Her onstage career spanned 28 years. "I loved dancing and how fortunate I am to have had a career I loved doing."

Bennett, 79, has been interpreting the American songbook professionally since 1949. At that time, he was opening for Pearl Bailey, and Bob Hope was in the audience. Hope asked him to sing and then asked the young man his name. Hope nixed it. Anthony Dominick Benedetto of Astoria, N.Y., became Tony Bennett.

The hits started with "Because of You" and "Rags to Riches" and were followed by a fruitful association with Count Basie and other jazz musicians. He recorded "I've Got the World on a String" and "The Best Is Yet to Come." In 1962 he recorded his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." In recent years Bennett cultivated younger audiences with a music video of "Steppin' Out With My Baby," which became part of MTV's rotation.

In a phone interview yesterday, Bennett said he was a survivor mostly because he got good advice early. "We used to do seven shows at day at the Capitol Theater in Washington and the Paramount in New York. The manager said you are doing the young crowd in the morning, the senior citizens in the afternoon, the engaged and married couples in the evening. And he said just sing good songs and everyone would like it. I stayed with that."

Luckily for his audiences, Bennett doesn't tire of singing "I Left My Heart." Laughing, with a slight hint of awe, Bennett said, "that song made me a world citizen. And when I do it, it always feels like the first time."

Harris, 79, stepped into the limelight on Broadway in 1950 with her performance in Carson McCullers's "The Member of the Wedding." She received an Oscar nomination for the film adaptation of the play. Her first Tony Award came in 1952 when she played Sally Bowles in "I Am a Camera." Since then she has won five Tonys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, more than any other actor, and holds a record 10 nominations.

Her credits include interpretations of historical women ranging from Joan of Arc to Mary Todd Lincoln to Queen Victoria to Emily Dickinson. Her one-woman look at the poet, "The Belle of Amherst," was a major hit that toured the country for years. And television audiences got to see her range in the series "Knots Landing." In recent years she suffered a stroke, and going to the theater has been a welcome respite. "This summer I saw 'Tea at Five' twice. And loved it," Harris says. The play is about another legend, actress Katharine Hepburn.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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