Sting gets top US cultural award
AN ENGLISHMAN in New York was the toast of Washington on Sunday, as British pop star Sting was feted along with fellow recipients of this year's Kennedy Centre Honours.
He took time off from his Broadway show The Last Ship to join Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, 1970s soul man Al Green, comedienne Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride at a gala ceremony in the American capital.
"I feel very happy in my trophy," Sting, 63, told AFP on the red carpet going into the soiree, pointing to the rainbow-coloured laurel draped around his neck.
"I'm not sure when I'll wear it again, but I think I look rather fetching in it," he quipped.
"It's still pretty overwhelming. I'm dealing with it quite well."
Bestowed by the nation's premier performing arts institute, the Kennedy Centre Honours are regarded as the highest recognition of cultural achievement in the United States.
This year's recipients were all smiles and laughter as they took their balcony places alongside President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle in the centre's vast opera house.
First to be honoured was Green, 68, with funk band Earth, Wind And Fire putting the black-tie crowd in a soul-swinging groove, Usher crooning Let's Stay Together and a huge chorus backing Mavis Staples and Sam Moore on Take Me To The River.
Earlier, on the red carpet, Green - an ordained pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, who branched out into gospel music in the 1980s - called the honour another milestone in a rich career that is still unfolding.
"They give me all these great accolades and then they tell you, 'All right, go out and earn it'," he said. "So we gotta keep writing and keep making songs."
Steven Spielberg, a 2006 recipient who directed 58-year-old Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, saluted the two-time Oscar winner as an actor "who mines humour like gold and then spreads the wealth".
Jane Fonda, who co-starred with Tomlin in 9 To 5, saluted the pioneering comedienne alongside Jane Lynch from Glee, Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live and country singer Reba McEntire.
"You've turned plain loveable oddballs into a viable career option," McKinnon, 30, said to 75-year-old Tomlin, best known for her vast repertoire of satirical sketch characters.
Young ballet stars like Tiler Peck, Misty Copeland and Jared Angle took to the stage in honour of McBride, 72, a star of the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine.
"It's the greatest award a dancer can receive," said McBride - who retired in 1989 and teaches dance in North Carolina - of her Kennedy laurel prior to the gala.
Lady Gaga kicked off the tribute to Sting, taking to the piano for a powerful cover of If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, followed by an equally potent version of I Hung My Head by Bruce Springsteen.
It fell on a current-day chart-topper, Bruno Mars, to bring the night to a close - and the crowd to its feet - with a medley of hits from Sting's 1980s new-wave band The Police, including Roxanne and Message In A Bottle.