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Beyonce Keeps On Turning

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Even with a Kennedy Center Honors crowd primed and ready for the obligatory "surprise" celebrity appearances, the announcement near the very end of Sunday's show sent a thrill through the room:

"Ladies and gentlemen -- Beyonce ."

And there she was, Miz Bootylicious herself, in a sparkly thigh-baring Bob Mackie thingy and stilettos, flinging that mane of hair, pumping those curvy gams and belting "Proud Mary" in such a perfect channeling of honoree Tina Turner circa 1971 that the kind of people who probably don't know from Destiny's Child -- and face it, that's mostly who goes to these things -- were going berserk.

What could be better? Try a second take. Due to a mike problem, the hip-hop princess taped a do-over for the television broadcast of the show -- but after the audience had left for dinner, reports our colleague Teresa Wiltz. So the only folks watching a performance that producers say blew the first one out of the water were a few Secret Service officers, a highly appreciative core of ushers -- and Turner herself, who lingered behind and blew kisses from the presidential box as Beyonce worked up a second sweat.

"I don't know how you did that," the breathless 24-year-old called up to Turner as she concluded the high-aerobic routine. "I'm about to pass out!"

It was a memorable moment of diva graciousness -- and then it was over. As some 1,800 donors, politicians and performers took their seats in the Grand Foyer for the traditional post-show dinner, Turner's table was empty. She and four friends had decamped to Georgetown's Bistro Francais.

Though the gala comes at the end of a wearying weekend of fetes, it is customary for honorees to make at least a short appearance for dinner to greet VIP and not-so-VIP fans. Eyebrows were raised, but Turner's rep insisted it was no snub: After sticking around for the retake, she went backstage to thank Beyonce (whose Mackie dress Turner once wore), Oprah Winfrey and Queen Latifah , who all had paid tribute to her in the show. "It was late when we were done and dinner had been served so we decided to get a quick bite on the way to the hotel," said spokeswoman Michele Schweitzer . At the bistro, Turner ordered the Black Angus sirloin and signed autographs for fans until 1 a.m.

Other honorees were easily located in the room by the knot of fans, friends and gawkers swarming them. Delicate Julie Harris , clasping both hands with Kevin Spacey , who gazed into her face and said sweetly, "You sit down and I'll come visit." Tony Bennett , at a table with Vanessa Williams that drew a steady, respectful stream of traffic. Suzanne Farrell , presumably somewhere in that cluster of willowy women with sleek buns and strappy frocks and perfect posture. Robert Redfor d , gleaming like Apollo in the constant flash of cameras, mobbed by so many people he couldn't have had time to eat. Ted Kennedy walked over to greet him, and about a third of the massive room froze to watch them talk.

We searched in vain for Paul Newman , curious about the cast on his right hand as he delivered a tribute to Redford. But he skipped dinner, so we got his publicist to explain the 80-year-old open-wheel enthusiast had minor surgery "not related to racing." We heard folks buzzing about Karl Rove 's hasty exit during out-and-proud Melissa Etheridg e 's performance -- but were assured his departure had to do with motorcade schedules, not politics. We looked far and wide for John Legend , the R&B newcomer who paid tribute to Bennett. We wished he had sung his hit "Ordinary People" and called it a tribute to Redford's Oscar-winning directorial debut -- but no one consulted with us!

Mostly we just stared: At Lynda Carter , in a Scarlett O'Hara-style corset gown, and her tablemate Cal Ripken , who signed autographs nonstop. Mary-Louise P arker , so down-to-earthy on TV but as glossy and tight-bodied as a Barbie in her bright red dress. Christine Baranski -- for once, a celeb who's not shorter than we thought. Vernon Jordan next to Condi Rice . CBS's Julie Chen , whose gorgeous feathered dress molted all night.

Helen Mirren topped her white ballgown with a white Gap tee on which she had scrawled in black: "Help the people of New Orleans and the Gulf." "It's such a huge problem -- it's like postwar Europe," she said of the city she visits two or three times a year with her husband, director Taylor Hackford .

Kid Rock table-hopped to visit some elderly socialites and reflected on a show he declared "seamless."

"Believe it or not, I really liked the ballet," he said. "I'd never been to the ballet."

This Just In . . .

A warmhearted Denzel Washington just gave $25,000 to help the poor in Rocky Mount, N.C., heat their homes. The gift, the largest in the 19-year history of the city's Winter Assistance program, comes from Washington's friendship with Rocky Mount native Herman Boone -- the T.C. Williams coach the actor portrayed in "Remember the Titans."

Hey, Isn't That . . .

. . . Jenna and Barbara Bush dining at Dino in Cleveland Park Saturday night? The party of six (three guys, three girls) drank Dolcetto wine and shared salumi, cheese and pasta at the family-style restaurant-- and the twins each bought a Dino T-shirt: Jenna the $10 gold tee with Nicky the Venetian lion logo on the chest; Barbara the $15 chocolate limited-edition "Lion on Your Belly" version.

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