Arts transcend politics in Washington

The Kennedy Center honors a group of individuals who contributed to the US, including Bush critic Barbra Streisand.

Barbara Streisand 88 (photo credit: )
Barbara Streisand 88
(photo credit: )
Barbra Streisand is visiting the White House but says she'll play nice. Streisand, a vocal critic of President George W. Bush, was a guest Sunday at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during one of Washington's few A-list events. "Art," she said, "transcends politics this weekend." The singer and actress this year is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, along with Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who. The honors recognize individuals who have had an impact on American culture through the performing arts, part of the living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. "I'm really excited and I'm touched" about being selected as an honoree, Townshend said. Musician B.B. King wore his Kennedy Center honoree medal from 1995 to the event. "I'm here because of one of my idols called Morgan Freeman," he said. Jones said there were no strained moments between Streisand and Bush during the reception. "Everything went so smooth," he said. After the reception, the group traveled with the president and first lady Laura Bush to the performing arts center for a gala in their honor. The gala included the young singer-songwriter Ne-Yo singing Streisand's 1965 hit "Lover, Come Back to Me." "Barbra Streisand is the epitome of emotion in music. You feel every word, that's something that artists in my day and age don't really pay attention to," he said. Musician Rob Thomas planned to sing The Who's song "Baba O'Riley" during the tribute for Townshend and Daltrey. "These are people who have influenced everyone," he said. "It's not just their music, it's their attitude." At a State Department dinner for the honorees Saturday night, Streisand said, "It's just great to be honored by one's own country." Jones, who earned the nickname "No Show Jones" for performances he missed during his wild days, promised to show up this time. As he entered the reception, the 77-year-old said, "I'm in a daze" about being an honoree. Tickets to the gala sell for as much as $4,000. Last year, the event raised $5 million to support Kennedy Center programs. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the awards Saturday night. She addressed each honoree, beginning with Freeman, who once played the president in the movie Deep Impact. "I know that when you played the African-American president of the United States, most people thought that would happen when a comet hit," Rice said, drawing laughs and cheers. "But wonder of wonders, fiction has become true."