|Is this the year for Carol Channing? Sammy Davis. Jr was a recipient in 1987|
-President John F. Kennedy
I hope this finds you all doing well. I was trying to figure out what the topic of my blog should be today when an idea came to me through a conversation with my friend Alex Rybeck. He was commending me on the work I've been doing to try and get Carol Channing a Kennedy Center Honor this year. By the way, I have been trying to get this to happen for over five years! This year, the "committee" are looking at the suggestions that are being submitted through their website.
American artists are recognized for their life's work with ceremonies at the White House and a celebrity-packed entertainment gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
The latter event, attended by the President and First Lady, has always been taped for network broadcast, inevitably prompting observations to the effect that awards shows, generally tending to be silly, can sometimes be inspiring.
Awards are subjective. No matter who wins, there are going to be supporters and detractors.
I have watched the Kennedy Center Honors every year since the first one in 1978. The honorees were Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Richard Rodgers, and Arthur Rubinstein. Being a movie and theater geek, I was very excited about seeing the tributes to Fred Astaire and Richard Rodgers. I have since come to love the other recipients. How exciting, however, to be exposed to Marian Anderson, George Balanchine, and Arthur Rubinstein.
Who decided upon those five? What was the criteria? How large or small was that committee? Are any of those that made those decisions thirty-five years ago still making those decisions? What is the criteria for being on the committee? WHO is on the committee? WHY is it a secret? As a baby boomer who has watched so many of my favorite entertainers pass on before their recognition by the committee, I implore you! Please listen to their fans who are reaching out to you ESPECIALLY when they are deserving.
I've already written previous blogs on why I think Carol Channing deserves this honor. The fact that I received over 1500 signatures on a petition(which is not being considered, by the way) and the fact that I have gotten so many responses on my campaign tells me that I'm not alone.
In May 2013, the Kennedy Center announced revisions to the Kennedy Center Honors selection process. The revisions include the addition of an advisory committee comprised of artists, former Honorees, and Kennedy Center board members as well as expanded solicitation of recommendations from the general public.
The Kennedy Center Honors provide recognition to living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts. The primary criterion is excellence, and artistic achievement in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, and television is considered.
MOST of the stars in the picture below were never honored with a Kennedy Center Honor! SOME of them NEVER received ANY kind of an award!
Here's who you're looking at: (left to right):
1st Row: James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, Lucille Ball, Hedy Lamarr, Katharine Hepburn, Louis B. Mayer, Greer Garson, Irene Dunne, Susan Peters, Ginny Simms, Lionel Barrymore
2nd Row: Harry James, Brian Donlevy, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, William Powell, Wallace Beery, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, RobertTaylor, Pierre Aumont, Lewis Stone, Gene Kelly, Jackie Jenkins
3rd Row: Tommy Dorsey, George Murphy, Jean Rogers, James Craig, Donna Reed, Van Johnson, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ruth Hussey,Marjorie Main, Robert Benchley
4th Row: Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Keenan Wynn, Diana Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Esther Williams, Ann Richards, Marta Linden, Lee Bowman, Richard Carlson, Mary Astor
5th Row: Blanche Ring, Sara Haden, Fay Holden, Bert Lahr, Frances Gifford, June Allyson, Richard Whorf, Frances Rafferty, Spring Byington, Connie Gilchrist, Gladys Cooper
6th Row: Ben Blue, Chill Wills, Keye Luke, Barry Nelson, Desi Arnaz, Henry O'Neill, Bob Crosby, Rags Ragland
This is a promotional photo of many of the actors under contract with MGM at the studios 20th birthday party. MGM was founded in 1924.
One MGM star that wasn't honored was Gower Champion. Read John Anthony's insightful book on Gower's legacy and you will come away KNOWING why he deserved this honor.
BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY: GOWER CHAMPION AND THE GLORIOUS AMERICAN MUSICAL by John Anthony Gilvey, St. Martins Press, 2005
During the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, few director-choreographers could infuse a new musical with dance and movement in quite the way Gower Champion could. From his earliest Broadway success with Bye Bye Birdie to his triumphant and bittersweet valedictory, 42nd Street, musicals directed by Champion filled the proscenium with life. At their best, they touched the heart and stirred the soul with a skillful blend of elegance and American showmanship.
He began his career as one-half of "America's Youngest Dance Team" with Jeanne Tyler and later teamed with his wife, dance partner, and longtime collaborator, Marge Champion. This romantic ballroom duo Show Boat, Lovely to Look At, and other films. But Broadway always called to Champion, and in 1959 he was tapped to direct Bye Bye Birdie. The rest is history.
|Gower and Marge. Marge should definitely be honored!|
In shows like Birdie, Carnival, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, Sugar, and 42nd Street, luminaries such as Chita Rivera (honored in , Dick Van Dyke, Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Robert Preston, Tony Roberts, Robert Morse, Tammy Grimes, and Jerry Orbach brought Champion's creative vision to life. Working with composers and writers like Jerry Herman, Michael Stewart, Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, and Bob Merrill, he streamlined the musical making it flow effortlessly with song and dance from start to finish.
John Gilvey has spoken with many of the people who worked with Champion, and in Before the Parade Passes By he tells the life story of this most American of Broadway musical director-choreographers from his early days dancing with Marge to his final days spent meticulously honing the visual magic of 42nd Street. Before the Parade Passes By is the life story of one man who personified the glory of the Broadway musical right up until the moment of his untimely death. When the curtain fell to thunderous applause on the opening night of 42nd Street, August 25, 1980, legendary impresario David Merrick came forward, silenced the audience, and announced that Champion had died that morning. As eminent theatre critic Ethan Mordden has firmly put it, "the Golden Age was over."
Though the Golden Age of the Broadway musical is over, John Gilvey brings it to life again by telling the story of Gower Champion, one of its most passionate and creative legends.
One of my favorites, Chita Rivera WAS honored, THANK GOD! Well deserved AND earned!
The world sadly lost one of our giants in the music industry last week. Today would have been Eydie Gorme's 85th Birthday. Why weren't Steve and Eydie ever honored with a Kennedy Center Honor?
|R.I.P. Eydie Gorme. Here Eydie Gorme presents Dionne Warwick with her very first Grammy Award in 1968 for Do You Know The Way To San Jose? (Neither Dionne Warwick OR Burt Bacharach and Hal David (now deceased) ever honored|
I found the following on Liza Minnelli's Official Facebook page. Sorry for the caps. I copied and pasted. LIZA, daughter of MGM Royalty, IS MOST DESERVING OF THIS AWARD. HER OTHER AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS ASIDE, SHE HAS PROVEN A LEADER IN HER CRAFT, AN UNCOMPROMISING PERFORMER WHO HAS OVERCOME MAJOR AND FREQUENT PHYSICAL OBSTACLES WITH GREAT COURAGE. MAYOR BLOOMBERG OF NEW YORK DECLARED HER A NEW YORK LIVING LANDMARK, BUT I BELIEVE SHE IS MORE THAN THAT. SHE IS A NATIONAL TREASURE AND DESERVES TO JOIN THE COMPANY OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS SUCH BY THE KENNEDY CENTER.
It was announced today that Liza is set for a spectacular upcoming show at the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods on November 8 and BroadwayWorld is thrilled to be the first to bring you the news!
One star of Hollywood who was honored is another one of my Dollys who also worked at MGM, Ginger Rogers. When she won, there was controversy because Fred Astaire's widow would not allow film footage of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to be used without the Kennedy Center Honors to pay huge royalties.
From the New York Times at the time: "In any free-association test, of course, the name of Ginger Rogers goes naturally with Fred Astaire's. Theirs was one of the more enchanting partnerships of this century. And, watching a film biography, the audience at Kennedy Center did see Rogers and Astaire gloriously dancing cheek to cheek. Alas, because of a startling eruption of mean-spiritedness, television viewers won't.
George Stevens Jr., always the producer or co-producer of these specials, explains in a statement that through the years, performers, studios and other rights holders have granted the broadcast free use of film excerpts on a "favored nations" basis: donors waiving fees on the understanding that other donors will do likewise. Any revenues generated by the occasion, Mr. Stevens says, support the nonprofit arts and education activities of the Kennedy Center.
Robyn Astaire, the performer's widow, will have none of that. She notified the center that without payment, any use of Astaire's film clips or still photos on this year's broadcast would result in legal action. Mr. Stevens announced that the Astaire-Rogers films and photos "regrettably are being removed from the tribute to Miss Rogers." The upshot can only seem like a gratuitous insult to the honoring of Miss Rogers and the memory of Astaire. Unfortunate, to say the least.
Introduced by Tom Selleck, the Ginger Rogers segment includes Jodi Benson, from Broadway's "Crazy About You," singing "Embraceable You" and members of the American Ballroom Theater evoking the right memories by dancing to, among other tunes, "I Won't Dance." Appearing in homage to Miss Rogers are Cyd Charisse, Cynthia Gregory, Jacques d'Amboise, Edward Villella, Maria Tallchief and Fayard and Harold Nicholas."
Interestingly enough, the YOUNG Mrs. Astaire allowed Fred Astaire's image to be utlized in a Dirt Devil commercial :
In 1995, columnist Frank Rich of The New York Times dubbed the award the "Kennedy Center Dishonors", with particular criticism for the Honors Gala, which he described as "more mortifying with each passing year":
Perhaps the Kennedy Center Honors should just be laughed off as Washington's own philistine answer to Hollywood's Golden Globes, and let it go at that. But in a country that honors culture so rarely, this annual presentation of lifetime achievement awards is by default a big deal. It's the only national event celebrating the performing arts as distinct from show business. Yet it has fallen so far in esteem even within the arts community that A-list performers are more likely to show up on the Honors' various committee lists than on stage or even in the audience at the gala.
Two Hispanic advocacy groups have complained that the Kennedy Center Honors have failed to acknowledge enough Hispanics and Latinos (to date, Plácido Domingo and Chita Rivera have been honored). One of the groups has demanded that Mr. Stevens be replaced. The Kennedy Center said that they will review the process of how they select the honorees.
As a result of the criticism, a new voting procedure took effect, which allowed non-members to select their own choices for future nominations online. (Source: Kennedy Center Honors website and Wikipedia)
So, what do I need to do to get on that committee?
Thank you to ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
With grateful XOXOXs ,
Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly! If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
Please, go to: http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/honors/?confirm=1 to suggest Carol Channing to be a recipient of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honor Award.
My next blog will be... My Exclusive interview with Director Jeffrey B. Moss on the upcoming National tour of Hello, Dolly! starring Sally Struthers!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
join me Thursday Night September 12th as I join Abbe Buck at The Metropolitan Room in New York at 7PMat 6PM!
Keeping LIVE Entertainment LIVE!
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
This Blog is dedicated to Eydie Gorme. May She rest in Peace!
Eydie Gorme, who died last weekend just shy of her 85th birthday