Carol Burnett accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor last night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Kennedy Center.
In black Oscar de la Renta, Tina Fey joked that the audience was assembled to “celebrate the first lady of American comedy, Ted Cruz.” Fey said her admiration of Burnett was so effusive, it was “just shy of creepy.”
Martin Short said that Washington only supported Burnett because she “had an approval rating above 12 percent.”
Tony Bennett serenaded Burnett with “The Way You Look Tonight.”
Julie Andrews, a friend of Burnett’s for more than 50 years, said “my squeaky clean image goes right out the door when I’m around her.” They performed in Washington together in 1965 for Lyndon Johnson’s inaugural.
“I’m still having a great ride,” said Burnett, 80. “But this prize is the cherry on the sundae.”
After the program, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, David Rubenstein, and Jonathan Witter, president of retail and direct banking of Capital One, the event’s sponsor, ate dinner in a room decorated like the set of “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett hummed along to tunes from “Saturday Night Fever.”
“The government is open, and the moon is out,” said Stuart Holliday, before taking his seat for the dinner at the White-Meyer House on Friday night.
The black tie meal (goat cheese salad, short ribs, and tarte tatine) is the precursor of the annual Meridian Ball, organized by the Meridian International Center of which Holliday is president.
After a grueling week, the party was steam-releaser for veteran Meridian attendees like Senator Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, and new recruits such as Mark Wetjen, commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
“I had to stay over for this,” said Representative Billy Long, Missouri Republican, who like his Democratic colleague Representative Rick Larsen of Washington, delayed his weekend return to his home district to attend.
The Meridian House was a riot of boas, feathers and never-ending dessert buffets. Buckets of Moet abounded in a nod to Christophe Navarre, the chairman of Moet Hennessy, and the ball’s chairman. The feel was Gatsby, the 2013 Baz Luhrmann version, with a few ambassadors and corporate lobbyists thrown in as extras.
The hip hop tunes seemed to release the inner flapper in Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security and the chairman of the Chertoff Group. He waved off requests to record his dance prowess.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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