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Six creative and performing artists win 2004 Kennedy Center honors

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Warren Beatty, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sir Elton John, Joan Sutherland and John Williams have been chosen for the 27th Kennedy Center Honors for 2004.

Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman described Beatty as ``a film artist whose talents are astonishingly diverse,'' Davis and Dee as ``a greatly revered couple of stage and screen,'' John as ``a pop music icon who also composes stunning musical film and theater scores,'' Sutherland as ``an operatic superstar of unsurpassed artistic achievement'' and Williams as ``one of the most influential American composers of the past four decades.''

The honors will be awarded at a dinner Dec. 4 given at the State Department by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Those honored, along with the Artists Committee which nominated them, will be received by President Bush and First lady Laura Bush at the White House the next afternoon. The reception will be followed by dinner and a gala performance at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Producer and co-writer will be George Stevens Jr., who with Nick Vanoff did the first production in 1978. He has repeated the job every year since then. For many years Walter Cronkite, the television news anchor, acted as master of ceremonies. Last year it was Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy. This year's nomination will be announced later.

The Columbia Broadcasting System network will record the two-hour performance for broadcast later in the month.

President Michael M. Kaiser, whose job of running the Kennedy Center was extended earlier this week until 2011, took this occasion to point out that in addition to honoring artists, the gala performance promotes many initiatives to make the center's presentations widely accessible, such as free performances for students.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on the bank of the Potomac River calls itself the country's busiest arts facility, with more than 3,300 performances a year, including films, stage plays, musicals, ballet, jazz, the Washington National Opera, the National Symphony Orchestra, classical soloists and smaller ensembles. Features include the Millennium Stage, a daily free event.
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