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Washington's Kennedy Center showers honor on five performers

KENNEDY Center Honors recipients spent four decades entertaining America and the world, but they get this weekend off. This year's recipients, Kirk Douglas, Aretha Franklin, Morton Gould, Harold Prince, and Pete Seeger will be in Washington to attend a bevy of parties in their honor.

But, says George Stevens, co-founder of the Kennedy Center Honors, ``in this era when celebrities are called upon to sing for their every supper, the recipients don't have to make a speech or sing a song all weekend.'' Instead, President Clinton will preside over the biggest celebration, which will be televised in the United States by CBS on Dec. 28.

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Screen star Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovich, the son of an immigrant junk dealer. Mr. Douglas attributes his successful career, which spans more than 80 films and three Oscar nominations, to ``acting with my guts.''

When the Civil Rights movement was putting blacks into the front lines of protest, Aretha Franklin was among those putting the rhythm of black gospel into pop music. From ``Respect'' to ``Pink Cadillac,'' Ms. Franklin has won nine Grammys, and in 1987 she became the first woman performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Morton Gould's early job as the staff pianist at Radio City Music Hall in New York led him to include elements of jazz, folk, hymns, spirituals, gospel, and Latin American music in the symphonies and concertos for which he would become famous. Best known for his scores for, among others, Broadway's ``Million Dollar Baby'' (1945) and TV's ``Holocaust'' (1978), Gould has also written works performed by the Chicago and the National Symphonies.

Veteran director Harold Prince has a hand in three current Broadway hits: ``Showboat,'' ``Kiss of the Spider Woman,'' and ``Phantom of the Opera.'' His unprecedented success on Broadway has brought him 19 Tony Awards.

Honors Chairman James Wolfensohn calls Pete Seeger, ``arguably the most influential folk artist and historian in the United States.'' Mr. Seeger, whose songs include ``We Shall Overcome'' and ``Where Have All the Flowers Gone,'' became an icon of 1960s counterculture music.

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