Obama, D.C., fete Ted Kennedy

March 8, 2009 at 10:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and an all-star lineup of political figures and entertainers saluted Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Sunday to celebrate his 77th birthday.

Actress Lauren Bacall joined singer James Taylor and Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Bernadette Peters for the event at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, billed as "Some Enchanted Evening: A Musical Birthday Salute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy," with comedian Bill Cosby as emcee.

Kennedy. who turned 77 Feb. 22. was diagnosed with a brain tumor last May and has mainly stayed in Florida since then, recovering from surgery. He came to Washington last week to participate in a healthcare summit at the White House.

Kennedy sat in the presidential box Sunday with first lady Michelle Obama. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also attended.

President Obama made something of a surprise entrance, coming onstage after Cosby said the performers would sing "Happy Birthday," but first he wanted to someone to make sure they started in key. The president got a standing ovation as he shook hands with the artists, concluding with Cosby.

After leading a chorus of "Happy Birthday," he went to the presidential box where he hugged Kennedy.

The talent lineup also included mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, actress Phyllis Newman, Broadway star Kelli O'Hara and veteran Broadway producer-director Hal Prince. They were accompanied by The Networks Tribute Choir, directed by Rev. Nolan Williams Jr. and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, conducted by John Williams.

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