SAFETY DANCE

Partying has its place during wartime — but at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala, which brought Hollywood stars, international performers and the Bush administration war room together Saturday night, partying included a heavy dose of security. “Everyone gets screened,” yelled a security chief at the State Department candlelight supper. “No one is exempt. Not even the honorees.”
Of course, all five honorees — Jack Nicholson, Quincy Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Julie Andrews and Van Cliburn — made it through without a hitch. As for Pavarotti, his biggest battle continues to be his efforts to get a divorce from his wife of 30 years, Adua, and marry his much younger personal assistant, Nicoletta Mantovani. According to Mantovani, a date still has not been set.
“We’ve been together for eight years,” she said. “I’ve done everything to look after him, but the divorce is not settled.”
Michael Douglas, meanwhile, worried whether the country might be getting too conservative.
“I support our president like everyone else, and I support his high approval rating,” the actor said. “But I hope he doesn’t take that approval rating as a sign to pass a broad, broad conservative package.”
On Sunday, it was on to the White House for a reception followed by the 7 p.m. show at the Kennedy Center. (Center officials explained the time had been moved up in deference to President George W. Bush’s desire to get to bed early.) First Lady Laura Bush arrived in an Arnold Scaasi gown with five tiers of black organza ruffles and a white lace bodice embroidered with white pearl and silver beads, and guests included Oprah Winfrey, Jeremy Irons, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Teresa Heinz and her husband, John Kerry, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Carol Burnett.
Although it was the first time Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had been out on the town since Sept. 11, that date wasn’t far from anyone’s mind. Asked what had been lost since then, Mercedes Bass replied gravely.
“Our independence, our freedom, ourselves.” So what’s left? “The permanent void we all live in,” she sighed.

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