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Stars, Politicians Join Cicely Tyson at Arts School Unveiling
Jon Corzine Oprah Winfrey & Cicely Tyson Angela Bassett
NJ Gov. Jon Corzine
Oprah Winfrey & Cicely Tyson share a laugh
Angela Bassett

East Orange, NJ, October 24, 2009 – Our high school was never like this!  Cicely Tyson unveiled the new home for her namesake school for the performing and fine arts in East Orange, NJ on Saturday, with a slew of stars cheering on the ribbon cutting.  Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Tamara Tunie and BeBe Winans took in performances in the new $143 million state-of-the-art facility, where more than 1,000 students are currently enrolled.  New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine even took time out from his contentious reelection campaign to christen the school. 

New York Celebrates Nelson Mandela
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni, Dave Stewart Queen Latifah
Will.I.Am, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy & Dave Stewart
Queen Latifah
Aretha Franklin Josh Groban Alicia Keys
Aretha Franklin in concert
Josh Groban greets fans at concert
Alicia Keys
Morgan Freeman Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper Karolina Kurkova & Archie Drury
Morgan Freeman
Lil' Kim & Cyndi Lauper performed together
Karolina Kurkova with fiance Archie Drury at Mandela dinner gala

New York, July 15-18, 2009 – It was more like “Mandela Week” as New York City celebrated Mandela Day with a slew of events from a reading in Washington Square Park to planting in Jackie Robinson Park to an interactive exhibition at Grand Central Station in celebration of South African leader Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday. 

While Mr. Mandela was not able to travel to the U.S., his wife, Graca Machel attended a dinner and auction on Wednesday hosted by former president Bill Clinton.  Clinton toasted his old friend Mandela, and urged the crowd to bid on the auction items with an anecdote:  “Even back when my wife was not Secretary of State, I bid on, paid for and won rum provided by Fidel Castro.  And I still have it; as far as I know, I violated some American trade law,” Clinton related, to much laughter. Among the guests at the star-studded dinner was Victoria’s secret model Karolina Kurkova, who made her first public appearance after announcing her pregnancy, and dutifully showed off her gleaming engagement ring and her fiancé, film producer Archie Drury.

The Mandela Day festivities culminated on Saturday night with a glittering concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring Stevie Wonder, Forest Whitaker, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Will.I.Am, and Wyclef Jean.  Even with that lineup, all eyes were on French First Lady Carla Bruni, who sang two songs with rocker Dave Stewart.  In fact, odd but wonderful duets were a hallmark of the concert: Aretha Franklin sang with Josh Groban; Alicia Keys with Angelique Kidjo and rapper Lil’ Kim joined Cyndi Lauper in a strangely delightful rendition of Lauper’s classi Time After Time.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates at West Point Graduation
Robert Gates
West Point cadets salute U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
West Point graduates
West Point graduates toss hats in the air

West Point, NY, May 23, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert Gates attended the 2009 U.S. Military Academy commencement in West Point on Saturday during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.  We noted that Secretary Gates was very accessible to photographers at the West Point graduation, and we wondered if that had anything to do with the change of administration – during the Bush administration, government officials for the most part turned a cold shoulder to the media at the West Point graduations.

Gates jokingly told the crowd that he’d been doing this long enough to realize that his speaking was keeping the graduates from partying.  The traditional hat-toss followed soon after.

At least Gates was on time for the graduation ceremony – a couple of days earlier, he arrived several hours late for the Salute to Freedom dinner aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan. 

Michelle Obama Thrills at ABT Spring Gala
Calvin Klein & Lee Radziwill Michelle Obama
Renee Zellweger
Calvin Klein & Lee Radziwill at ABT
Michelle Obama at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anna Wintour Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos
Anna Wintour at ABT
Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos
Renee Zellweger at ABT

New York, May 18, 2009 – That heightened sense of excitement among the glittering crowd at the American Ballet Theatre’s annual spring gala was due to a very special attendee, Michelle Obama.

Designer Carolina Herrera sponsored the ABT gala, drawing show biz personalities like Renee Zellweger, Mariska Hargitay, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Lorne Michaels, Iman, Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos and Matt Lauer.  All were thrilled to be in the presence of the first lady.

Mrs. Obama spoke at the gala, and welcomed students from the ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School for their first-ever performance at the Metropolitan Opera House.  “This dance academy is a wonderful legacy for a woman who dedicated so much of her life to making arts and culture accessible for all,” Obama said of former first lady Onassis.  Jackie O’s sister, Lee Radziwill and daughter, Caroline Kennedy, were there. 

The ballet was the last stop on Mrs. Obama’s day in New York City.  Earlier, she cut the ribbon on the newly reopened American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


ABT photos: Caroline Torem Craig

Celebrities Flock to White House Correspondents Association Dinner
Dwayne Johnson & Capt. Richard Phillips Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Wolf Blitzer Tyra Banks
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson & Capt. Richard Phillips
Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore & Wolf Blitzer
Tyra Banks
Felicity Huffman Jonathan Rhys Meyers & Donatella Versace Amy Poehler & Will Arnett
Felicity Huffman
Jonathan Rhys Meyers & Donatella Versace
Will Arnett & Amy Poehler
Steven Spielberg & Kate Capshaw Alicia Keys Jon & Dorathea Bon Jovi
Steven Spielberg & Kate Capshaw
Alicia Keys
Dorathea & Jon Bon Jovi

Washington, D.C., May 9, 2009 – There were two big themes at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner.  On one hand, presumably due the presence of the Obamas in the White House, Hollywood stars embraced the dinner in a big, big way.  We haven’t seen such a high glamour quotient at the dinner in years, and these stars worked the red carpet to maximum effect.  On the other hand, for unknown reasons Cabinet members avoided cameras at the Washington Hilton at the dinner – Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Janet Napolitano and others skipped the red carpet and headed directly into the dining room. 

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were reportedly in the house but avoided the cameras.  There was buzz that Tom and Katie were seen hanging out in the hotel lobby all day, that they were staying there, and were seen later shopping at a drugstore across the street.  Our spy inside the dinner told us that the Cruises sat toward the back of the room instead of front and center. 

Captain Richard Phillips, the ship captain who survived capture by Somali pirates, worked the press line like a seasoned pro, posing for photos, answering questions and joking with photographers on the red carpet. 

Afterward, we hit the parties.  When White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel rushed into the Capitol File party at the Corcoran Gallery of Art without posing for photos, publisher Jason Binn sent photographers in after him.  When the cameramen cornered Emanuel on the dance floor, they got a taste of his legendary temper – he looked like he was going to charge like a bull – and no photos were taken.  For the record, Emanuel seemed to be networking on the dance floor, not dancing. 

Ben Affleck Launches Humanitarian Effort at U.N.
Dikembe Mutombo Ben Affleck James Nachtwey
Dikembe Mutombo
Ben Affleck
Photographer James Nachtwey

New York, December 17, 2008 – Ben Affleck was at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday to unveil his newest directorial project, a short film called Gimme Shelter.  Intended to raise money and humanitarian assistance for people displaced by fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Affleck joked that perhaps they should recruit an attractive actress to draw attention to the cause.  (Many famous actresses, including Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, and Drew Barrymore are U.N. ambassadors for various causes.) 

But Affleck spoke passionately about the devastation in the Congo, and said he was humbled to be speaking before people to whom he normally listens.  The audience included famed photographer James Nachtwey, whose 2006 book, Forgotten War, documented the African nation’s crisis; Congolese-born NBA star and humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo, and Rose Mapendo, a genocide survivor turned activist. 

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