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Monday, 6 December, 1999, 11:30 GMT
Connery and Wonder honoured
Stevie Wonder meets the Clintons
Sean Connery and Stevie Wonder were among the performers honoured by US President Bill Clinton at a special White House awards ceremony.

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The pair joined actor Jason Robards, dancer Judith Jamison and pianist and comedian Victor Borge at the event, hosted by the President and First Lady, which honours those who have made a contribution to American culture.

In contrast to other award ceremonies, recipients of Kennedy Centre Honours do not take to the stage to receive their awards - instead, they remain seated while fellow entertainers perform and pay effusive tributes to them

Mr Clinton jokingly gave honorary citizenship of the US to Connery, who made his name as the first James Bond, telling the Scotsman: "After all, we could not have won the Cold War without you."

Victor Borge and Sean Connery share a joke
His Entrapment co-star Catherine Zeta Jones was one of a number of Hollywood stars at the ceremony. She said: "He has taught me the difference between a good single malt whisky and a bad one, and he has taught me the best, dirtiest jokes I have ever heard in my life."

A bagpipe band struck up to mark the award, and Connery left his seat to perform a few dance steps.

Stevie Wonder's award brought tributes from fellow musicians including Herbie Hancock and Smokey Robinson, while Mr Clinton said: "We all know Stevie's songs, and we all try to sing them. Even for those of us who sing off-key, they're all in the key of life.

"At times, his songs seem to be in the very air we breathe, always part of the sunshine of our lives."

He was also praised for his work in helping to fight famine and apartheid in South Africa.

The blind soul legend recently told a church congregation he was hoping to undergo pioneering surgery to help him restore his sight. But the Wilmer Eye Institute, Baltimore, said at the weekend the procedure was unlikely to help him.

The honorees at the White House reception
Jason Robards, 77, best known for his Oscar-winning roles in All The President's Men and Julia, was praised by Clinton for his "inner fire" while he paid tribute to Judith Jamison's "towering grace". In 1971 she received a standing ovation which was longer than her 16-minute dance solo, Cry.

And 90-year-old Victor Borge left his native Denmark at the start of World War II and arrived in New York in 1940 not knowing a word of English.

But the entertainer, who started out aged 10 with the Copenhagen Philarmonic, was soon appearing with Ed Sullivan and Bing Crosby.

After he collected his award from Mr Clinton, he turned around and said in mock confusion, "Who was that gentleman?"

The president, whose period in office ends in 2001, replied, "You ought to hang on to that thought. In 14 months, people will be asking that question for real."

Other big names at the ceremony included actors Michael Douglas, Matthew Broderick, Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman. Washington's elite was represented by US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, defence secretary William Cohen and retired general Colin Powell.

See also:

25 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
Connery steals the show
01 Jul 99 | Scottish Parliament opening
Connery cheered at parliament opening
03 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Stevie Wonder bids to regain sight
01 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Old Bonds voted best
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