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Touching the Stars

Show-Biz Veterans Give, Receive Honors at Their Spiritual Home

November 06, 1998|BETTIJANE LEVINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The invites read black tie, the menu read chicken, and the 650 guests included many show biz headliners. But Wednesday night's 17th annual Distinguished Artist Awards, presented by Club 100 of the Music Center, was not a routine charity gala. It was a touching kind of neighborhood event--the 'hood being downtown's Music Center.

The five award winners made clear to the crowd gathered at the Regent Beverly Wilshire that for many of the world's great artists, the Los Angeles arts complex is a spiritual home, the place in this city where creative individuals feel most comfortable and nourished.

Winners of Club 100's golden medallion were Broadway legend Jerry Herman ("Hello Dolly," "Mame," and "La Cage Aux Folles"), dance whiz Ann Reinking ("All That Jazz" and "Fosse"), composer-pianist Lalo Schifrin (100 films and the "Mission Impossible" theme), singer Garth Brooks and actor Kirk Douglas.

Herman's award was presented by former "Golden Girl" Betty White, a friend of the composer who recently moved to L.A.

Herman felt "overwhelmed and humble" when he found out who the other recipients would be. Garth Brooks, it turns out, felt the same way. He flew in just for the event and brought his wife, Sandy, and his mother and father. "I was astounded when I realized the kind of company I would be in," Brooks drawled, after removing his big black Stetson. His award was presented by director Forest Whitaker ("Hope Floats").

Martin Landau introduced Schifrin, who called the Music Center his own "spiritual home" and performed a piano version of his "Mission Impossible" theme. And top tapper Gregory Hines presented the award to Reinking, whose remarks got directly to the heart of the matter.

She discovered her own talent in the sixth grade, she said, because of a teacher who loved the arts and wanted to impart that love to her students. In today's no-frills educational environment, most children don't have the same chance to learn about creativity and discover their own talents, Reinking said. Club 100 of the Music Center brings that chance to Los Angeles schoolchildren, and that is one of the most important things any civic group could do, the dancer added.

Awardee Kirk Douglas strode to the podium amid a standing ovation, after hilarious (but unprintable) election day comments by Jay Leno.

The event, hosted by "Entertainment Tonight's" Mary Hart and chaired by Eunice David, raised $230,000, which will benefit the Music Center's arts education programs.

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