So it was: last night’s Points of Light Foundation show at the Kennedy Center honored President Bush 41, and featured a “reunion” of living presidents: Clinton, Carter, and the two Bushes. “All Together Now” was taped as a variety show about volunteerism that will air on NBC March 28th. The intentions were good, but tt was nevertheless a strange affair, given the heavy involvement of the Carlyle Group and –according to the program–“an extraordinary gift by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Amir of of the State of Qatar.” I felt like I needed Michael Moore to come sit beside me and explain what the heck was going on.
Donors listed over $1 million include big tobacco’s Altria Group (formerly known as Philip Morris) and Houston based oil machinery manufacturer Stewart and Stevenson LLC.
In the meantime: though Sheryl Crow came to rehearsals she dropped out at the last minute due to severe throat problems. George Stevens, Jr. and his son Michael, who also produce the Kennedy Center Honors, put this show on, and the music was eclectic but fine. Standouts included Cee Lo Green and Sam Moore on a spectacular medley of Moore’s “Hold On I’m Coming” and “Soul Man”; Mavis Staples and Jonny Lang doing good soul serivce to Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” plus excellent performances by Reba McEntire–who flew in after performing at Muhammad Ali’s Fight Night in Phoenix on Saturday night and also helped emcee–for free— plus Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Heather Headley and the as usual lively Kid Rock.
Underwood made an interesting choice in singing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” Good for her. Rucker did less mixing “Stand By Me” with one of his own tunes. Ouch. Reba did double duty as emcee with Miranda Cosgrove. Garth Brooks flew in at the last minute, skipped rehearsal and sound check, sort of tossed of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me” with a big back up chorus. Only Moore, Cee Lo, and Mavis Staples really looked like they were having fun. Everyone was backed up by Rob Mathes, currently Sting’s producer, who led an all star band.
As for the presidents: George HW and Barbara are plucky but elderly; I like Barbara because she tells it like it is. George 43 (Dubya) and Laura seemed out place. As one person attached to the show said: “They haven’t yet, uh, done anything for volunteerism. We’re waiting.” The Carters are still hanging in there with Habitat for Humanity. Biggest mystery: Bill Clinton, who seems to have made the Bushes his surrogate family. He came to the event alone, made no mention of Hillary or Chelsea. The Carters seem absolutely perplexed by all the talk of the Bushes and Clinton being a family. It is weird.
There was also a tribute to the ambassador from Japan, which I’m sure will be cut for time. But the NBC show should be fun when it’s all put together. David Rubenstein, head of the Carlyle Group, announced from the podium that $30 million has been raised. I’m not sure for what, exactly. But thanks, Qatar, and thanks to the Moonie owned Washington Times Foundation, which donated over $100,000. So too did Bush 41, which was pretty nice.
PS President Obama sent a taped message. He was in Rio.