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SOCIAL CLIMES

Clint basks in the Mancini glow

August 24, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

Never mind that Clint Eastwood was about to receive the prestigious Hank Award from Quincy Jones. Or that he was going to preside with Postmaster General John E. Potter over the unveiling of a commemorative stamp honoring his late friend, composer Henry Mancini.

It was his stint as a former mayor of Carmel that had members of the media popping what became the Burning Question during an interview op at the fourth annual Mancini Musicale benefit for the Henry Mancini Institute. "What political advice do you have for Arnold Schwarzenegger?" they chorused. "Keep your eye on the ball and take the club back slow," he drawled with a knowing wink.

Later, Eastwood relaxed and sipped a glass of white wine in another backstage chamber at UCLA's Royce Hall as he schmoozed with Mancini's widow, Ginny Mancini, and jazz pianist-singer Diana Krall, who would perform the song "Why Should I Care?," co-written by Eastwood. Receiving a crystal award etched with an image of the composer who garnered 20 Grammys and four Oscars was going to be a "thrill," he said. "I was a great admirer of Hank's. I first met him in 1954 when we were under contract to Universal. He was in the music department and was so nice to the actors. I used to go to his house and play. I played piano and cornet then."

The institute chose to honor Eastwood for his "distinguished contributions to the world of music through his work," said Mancini, who was joined at the Aug. 16 event by her children, Christopher, Felice and Monica. "He has an impressive history of incorporating jazz into his films."

Hundreds of guests dined alfresco before entering the auditorium to enjoy performances by Krall and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval -- playing with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra -- and a musical tribute to Eastwood that included "Doe Eyes" from "The Bridges of Madison County." Jones, a previous winner of the Hank Award, led the verbal salute to the star, a man he said he'd known since he was 15. "Clint is a jazz lover and a great human being. To have all this come together with Ginny and the family, well, it's divinity," he said.

Capping the evening, the curtain went up on a facsimile of the Henry Mancini stamp, due to be released next spring by the U.S. Postal Service. Beside an image of the Pink Panther in its lower left corner, the stamp features the composer-conductor in a turtleneck sweater, baton raised. "I know as sure as I'm here that he is still conducting all of us, in a way, toward music," Mancini said. "God knows, the world could use a little musical healing right now."

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