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Kennedy Center to honor Dick Van Dyke and others at scaled-down events

After Dick Van Dyke got the call informing him that he had been chosen as the Kennedy Center Fellow, he did exactly what he was told not to do: he called his family to tell them about the good news.

And why not? He is a 95-year-old show business statesman whose eponymous television show is believed to have helped shape American sitcoms for decades.

“My wife took the call and the instructions were, ‘Congratulations, but don’t tell anyone,’” Van Dyke said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “You can not do this! I immediately called all my relatives. I couldn’t hold it back.

Van Dyke is now adding one of the country’s highest artistic accolades to his curriculum vitae. Other recipients, announced Wednesday by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, include singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country music star Garth Brooks; actress, choreographer and producer Debbie Allen; and violinist Midori.

Last year, the pandemic blurred the Kennedy Center Honors’ schedule. Typically held in December, the performances and ceremonies associated with the show have been postponed to May, with airing scheduled for June 6 on CBS.

Another major change is the shifting political winds: While President Trump did not attend honors during his tenure or host the traditional White House reception for the laureates, President-elect Biden is expected to rekindle the relationship.

In a typical year, the program features an opera house filled with celebrities, dignitaries and plush donors to celebrate the winners. This year, the performances will be filmed on the Kennedy Center campus – some, perhaps, with a small audience – or the film crew will visit the artists if they can’t make it to Washington.

The center hopes to have its typical reception at the White House and a ceremony at the State Department, where the ribbons are distributed.

But some traditions are out of the question.

“A dinner with 2,000 people in the lobby will not take place,” said Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center. “We are only going to do this in the safest and most respectful way.”

The winners – selected on the recommendation of an advisory committee made up of representatives from the Kennedy Center and past award recipients – represent folk, country and classical music, as well as theater and television.

Baez’s career as a singer-songwriter has long been linked to her political activism, which began with the civil rights movement and then the anti-war protests. Baez, 80, says she now sees painting as her main artistic outlet. As for her legacy, she would rather be remembered for “good issues,” she said, citing Rep. John Lewis, rather than for awards.

“I don’t want to be too respectable,” she said in an interview and laughed. “But I accept and I guess the ‘good stuff’ I’ve been in my life in is part of why I’m getting this award.”

While these laureates have long passed the “struggling artists” stage of their careers, they are not lost in the fact that they are receiving this award during times of crisis in their industries, due to closures due to a pandemic. .

Brooks – who is the No. 1 best-selling solo artist in US history, according to the Recording Industry Association of America – said he feared for musicians who occupy the position he held there is 30 years old, playing in bars and clubs. with the hope that this leads to a recording contract.

“The carpet was pulled out from under them,” said Brooks, 58. “How this will affect the music industry in the future is a big question.”

Over the past 10 months, these five artists have been looking for safe ways to share their art and interact with their audiences. Baez has exhibited his paintings virtually, for example; Allen gave live dance lessons to a virtual audience of over 35,000 people; and Van Dyke said he was delighted to learn from fan mail that some kids back from school found out about “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. (“I have a whole new fan club!” He said.)

For Midori, 49, a Japanese-born violinist who rose to prominence in the United States after performing with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, the pandemic has brought greater appreciation for playing. in front of an audience, in flesh and blood. She gave virtual workshops and master classes during the pandemic.

“It made me realize how precious the moments of being able to do things live are,” she says.

At a time when the country is somewhat of a wasteland for the performing arts, there is a desire that this spring honors program usher in some kind of rebirth.

Allen, 70, has a long history of promoting the arts as a core national interest. After establishing herself as a Broadway performer, being recognized for her roles in “West Side Story” and “Sweet Charity,” then for her choreography “Fame,” Allen was a sort of cultural diplomat under President George W. Bush, traveling abroad to teach and talk about dance.

Allen said that in times of national crisis, she sees the arts as a balm – as well as a space to discuss the pressing issues of the day. (In “Grey’s Anatomy,” in which Allen produces, directs, and stars, Covid-19 is the central plot.)

“As a country, we are all looking for the light because such a storm takes over,” Allen said. “And the arts are always an answer.”

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California governor blocks release of Manson disciple Leslie Van Houten

A disciple of Charles Manson who is serving a life sentence for his role in the gruesome double murder of a Los Angeles couple more than 50 years ago has lost her latest release attempt after the governor of California overturned a parole board decision granting his release.

Convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten was 19 when she and the other members of the so-called Manson family broke into Rosemary and Leno LaBianca’s home and stabbed them dozens of times on August 10, 1969.

The murder of the LaBiancas took place one night after five people were murdered at Benedict Canyon, home of director Roman Polanski – including his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. The bloodshed, carried out under the leadership of Mr. Manson, terrorized Los Angeles and beyond.

Ms Van Houten, 71, qualified in July for release from a state prison, but California law gives the governor the final say on an inmate’s desirability for parole.

And on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, overturned the parole board’s decision, calling Van Houten “danger” in a release review document.

“SP. Van Houten’s explanation of what made her vulnerable to Mr. Manson’s influence remains unsatisfactory,” Mr. Newsom said. “She described herself at the time of her involvement in the Manson family as a ‘very weak person who took advantage of someone who wanted to take control of my life, and I put it back.’ ‘

This is the second time that Mr. Newsom has blocked Ms. Van Houten’s parole and the fourth time that a governor has done so.

Rich Pfeiffer, an attorney for Ms Van Houten, said in an interview on Sunday that he plans to appeal the governor’s decision to Los Angeles Superior Court and that the case would likely end up in an appeals court.

“There is no evidence to support the governor’s overthrow,” Pfeiffer said.

Mr Pfeiffer said the stigma of being associated with Mr Manson, who was one of the 20th century’s most notorious murderers, influenced Mr Newsom. Mr Manson, who spent most of his life behind bars, died in 2017 at the age of 83.

“A lot of murderers have come out of prison and have done very well, but these are not high profile cases,” he said.

At a 2002 parole board hearing, Ms Van Houten admitted that she pinned Ms LaBianca, owner of a clothing store, while another member of the Manson family, Patricia Krenwinkel, l ‘stabbed in the collarbone. Ms LaBianca unsuccessfully attempted to break free upon hearing her husband, a supermarket executive, being stabbed in another room of the couple’s home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.

When the blade of the kitchen knife that was used on Ms LaBianca bent, another central figure in the attack, Charles D. Watson, stabbed Ms LaBianca with a bayonet eight times, authorities said. Ms Van Houten told the parole board in 2002 that she stabbed Ms LaBianca in the abdomen 14 to 16 times.

The phrases “Death to the Pigs”, “Rise” and other references to Helter Skelter, the name given by Mr. Manson to his apocalyptic race war, were scrawled in the blood of the victims on the walls and the refrigerator, it said. investigators.

At the scene of the crime, Van Houten wiped fingerprints on surfaces, changed clothes and drank chocolate milk from the couple’s refrigerator, according to parole review records. She was arrested more than three months after the murders and has been jailed for about 50 years.

“I remain concerned with Ms. Van Houten’s characterization of her participation in this gruesome double murder, which is one of the most infamous and frightening series of crimes in California history,” said Mr. Newsom.

At the same time, Mr Newsom said Ms Van Houten had an exemplary disciplinary record, participated in self-help programs and obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree while incarcerated.

“Taken as a whole,” he said, “I find the evidence to show that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison at that time.”

Mr Pfeiffer, Ms Van Houten’s lawyer, said on Sunday evening that his client could be exposed to the coronavirus if she remained in prison.

“At her age, she’s at high risk,” he says.

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Van Duyne wins Texas seat in another lost chance for Democrats

Former Republican mayor and housing manager for the Trump administration Beth Van Duyne defeated Democrat Candace Valenzuela on Tuesday in a House race in suburban Dallas, taking a crucial Republican seat as the Ms. Van Duyne was fighting to increase her staff. in Congress.

Ms Van Duyne’s victory, as The Associated Press called it, was a key victory for Republicans, appearing to shut down Democrats’ last hope of taking a seat in the state despite what was predicted to be a year grim for Republicans due to changing demographics. increasingly made Texas competitive. It also mirrored the results of some other conservative-leaning suburban districts across the country, where, despite reports that many voters had been alienated by President Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans appeared to be holding the line. suddenly and even on the way to winning. seats.

Ms Van Duyne, who worked in the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, was previously mayor of Irving, Texas, the first woman to hold the post. She came to the country’s attention as she was among those responsible for the family of a Muslim teenager who was arrested after her homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb. (The lawsuit was then dismissed.)

She later emerged as part of a self-proclaimed “Conservative Team” of four women, who presented themselves as the right-wing’s response to four liberal women who became political celebrities in the Democratic freshman class of 2018. , including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. She is now expected to be part of the largest group of House Republican women ever elected to Congress that same year, erasing the previous record of 25 women.

Ms Van Duyne has aligned herself closely with Mr Trump and defended her handling of the pandemic, and her former HUD boss Ben Carson helped lobby for her in the final days of the campaign.

“People are fed up with Congress playing political games and just focusing on mutual attack,” Van Duyne said in response to questions from the Dallas Morning News that she posted on her website. “I promise to be a voice in Congress that always focuses on getting things done to help us grow and create more opportunity.”

Ms Valenzuela, a former school board administrator, had sought to overthrow the Democrats’ seat and become the first Afro-Latina to be elected to Congress. The seat was left open after Representative Kenny Marchant, a reliable Republican vote who won his 2018 re-election by just three points, said in the summer of 2019 he would retire rather than face Ms Valenzuela.

Ms Valenzuela had galvanized supporters with her powerful tale of surviving homelessness and becoming the first in her family to graduate from college, and relied heavily on the strategy Democrats employed in 2018 and this year, centering his campaign to defend the affordable care law and criticize the administration’s response to the pandemic.

She sought to link Ms Van Duyne, who was often pictured without a mask during her campaign, to Mr Trump and his mismanagement of the coronavirus. Ms Van Duyne, for her part, criticized Ms Valenzuela for not hosting in-person events during the pandemic, even as coronavirus cases continued to climb in the state.

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Who was Pappy Van Winkle and why is his whiskey so expensive?

PAPPYLAND
A story of family, bourbon candy and things that last
By Wright Thompson

For the dedicated whiskey connoisseur, sampling Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve bourbon is a quest worthy of Tolkien. With small production and a long 15-23 year aging process that creates a tight supply / high demand situation, the Spirit is decidedly elusive at its starting retail price of around $ 120. Bars that stock it can charge $ 75 or more, and collector sites list the whiskey for $ 5,000 a bottle. So what is that about Pappy Van Winkle?

Wright Thompson sets out to answer this question in “Pappyland: A Family Story, Bourbon Candy, and Things That Last”. The book is a moving journey that combines biography, autobiography, philosophy, Kentucky history, history of the origins of bourbon and an insider’s perspective on the making and marketing of Van Winkle whiskey. The line of human strength running through all of this is Julian P. Van Winkle III, the grandson of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., who opened the Stitzel-Weller Distillery just outside of Louisville on Derby Day in 1935 and produced various brands until he died in 1965.

“There was no way to separate the bourbon mythology from its personal history,” Thompson writes of Julian III. To understand the story, the author spent part of three years following Van Winkle as he continued the family business he took over in 1981. Now produced in partnership with the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfurt, his Pappy Van Winkle’s family reserve is a liquid tribute to a grandson. to his ancestors. Thompson, a senior ESPN writer from Mississippi, identifies himself as the Boswell of Bourbon Country here – a keen literary watcher and respectful fanboy with an obvious affection for his subject, even dubbing him “Booze Yoda.”

“Pappyland” evolves smoothly through the family tradition with the subtle nuances of a well-aged bourbon; it has top notes of stoicism and melancholy and a lingering finish of pride, even when recounting the tough times. Everyone drinks a lot of really great whiskey and Thompson admits, “To be honest it gets repetitive after a while, I know. I know. ”But he goes on to report in detail what goes into each coveted bottle bearing Van Winkle’s name.

Though speckled with humor and light moments, “Pappyland” takes a critical approach to the cultivation of squeezing corn, shattering the myth as needed to reveal lesser-known bits and pieces, like the fact that popular brands like Elijah Craig and Evan Williams were created by Jewish marketing distillers. While it sometimes feels like Thompson is circling the block (stopping for pie and coffee) with a few anecdotes, his ability to zoom in and out from the global to the personal level sets things right. perspective, especially with complex topics like dynamics. of the father-son relationship.

Even beyond the playlist on an honky-tonk jukebox, the image of American whiskey is often tied to melancholy memories and a lonely longing for the past. As novelist Walker Percy wrote in a 1975 essay for Esquire, “Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust. Thompson echoes that sentiment in his own way: “Vodka is for skinny and scotch for wrestlers and bourbon is for homesick.

It is no longer the headquarters of the family business, but Pappy Van Winkle’s original 1935 Stitzel-Weller distillery still stands, now owned by a multinational beverage company and used as a tourist stopover for the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey brand. A plaque bearing Pappy’s mantra remains on the ground: “We make bourbon candy, at a profit if we can, at a loss if necessary, but still bourbon candy.” As “Pappyland” makes clear, profit and loss is a part of life, and yes, bourbon is always good.

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Van Jones, down on CNN, invokes George Floyd’s words in declaring Trump’s loss a “ justification. ”

The election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. sparked powerful reactions across the country, but few resonate as deeply as the emotional response to the air to President Trump’s defeat by CNN contributor Van Jones – who invoked George Floyd’s final words to express his sense of relief and vindication.

“‘I can’t breathe’ – it wasn’t just George Floyd, it was a lot of people who felt like they couldn’t breathe,” said Mr. Jones, a former Obama administration official, burst into tears moments after the network called the race for Mr. Biden.

“You spend a lot of your life energy trying to hold it together,” added Mr. Jones, who is black. “And it’s a big deal for us just to be able to get some peace and have a chance to reset.”

Mr Jones said Mr Trump made the manifestation of “racism” openly acceptable and feared for the safety of his family under his presidency.

“And it’s easier for a lot of people,” after Mr. Trump was defeated, he said. “If you’re a Muslim in this country, you don’t have to worry that the president doesn’t want you here. If you are an immigrant, you don’t have to worry if the president is going to be happy about babies being abducted. “

As thousands of people cheered, danced and honked their horns in New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, Mr. Jones summed up the sentiments of many of Trump’s critics, overwhelmed with relief that Mr. Trump had been defeated.

“It’s a justification for a lot of people who have really suffered,” he said, as he began to sob. “It’s a good day for this county. I’m sorry for the people who lost, but for the most part it’s a good day. “

Mr. Jones’ opinion has not been universally shared, not even on the CNN set.

Former Rep. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican, questioned calling the race in his home state until all provisional ballots were counted, saying the race was ” not finished ”.