5/6/09

Whoopi: Nothing Bogus About Norman Jewison

Whoopi Goldberg surprises director Norman Jewison at prestigious fete

By Audrey J. Bernard

Fashion/Lifestyles/Society Editor

On Monday, May 4, 2009, the esteemed president, board of governors and film committee of The National Arts Club (NAC) presented its coveted Medal of Honor for Film to Norman Jewison at a dinner in his honor at the historic Gramercy Park South venue. NAC’s president, Aldon James, made the presentation to the legendary director as many veteran movers and shakers from the entertainment industry looked on.

In his heartfelt remarks James expressed a true appreciation for Jewison’s timeless works. One work in particular, the 1967 Academy Award winning film for Best Picture In the Heat of the Night, starred Sidney Poitier. This landmark film won five Oscars including Best Picture. In 2008, it made the American Film Institute’s List of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.

Although Poitier was unable to attend the event, he expressed his love and respect for Jewison via a letter that was read by James in which the Academy Award winning actor described Jewison as a man who has "balance and peace center him in an unsteady world" and that "we should draw closer and listen to his life."

During dinner, Whoopi Goldberg caused a slight commotion with a surprise visit that shocked not only the VIP guests but Jewison himself who worked with the iconic comedian on his light-hearted film, Bogus.

Whoopi poked fun at the film stating, "I did not make a deep heavy film with Norman; most Black people in the room did, I did not. I made a frivolous film with Norman. A film that I love; with a crazy Frenchman and a little boy who grew up to see dead people and whose little sister is now Miley Cyrus’ best friend on TV."

Also in attendance was Harry Belafonte who spoke of the first time he and the honoree had worked together, which was for CBS’ "The Big Party by Revlon."

Other speakers included Academy Award Winning Actress, Olympia Dukakis; Academy Award Winning Screenwriter, William Goldman; producer David Picker; Award Winning TV Interviewer, Professor Richard Brown; and The Consul General of Canada in New York, Daniel Sullivan.

Cher, who appeared via a video, spoke of her profound respect for her Moonstruck director and revealed an almost-wedding that garnered hilarious laughter from the black tie crowd. "I once almost got married after I saw Fiddler on the Roof so either I am an idiot or you’re too persuasive or both."

Entertainment was provided by Academy Award and Grammy winning songwriters, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who performed their award-winning song "The Windmills of Your Mind," that was featured in Jewison's acclaimed film, The Thomas Crown Affair.

Jewison, who was born in Toronto, Canada, has directed 25 motion pictures, which have received 46 Academy Award nominations (including five for Best Picture and three for Best Director). He was also honored by the Academy with their prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Lifetime Achievement Award.

Famous for his diversity, the director’s outstanding body of work have won him numerous international prizes and acclaim including Moonstruck, Jesus Christ Superstar, …And Justice for All, Fiddler on the Roof, The Cincinnati Kid, Agnes of God, Rollerball (1975) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Run by volunteers, NAC was founded by Charles de Kay, New York Times literary and art critic in 1898 with the mission to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts. A historic staple in Gramercy Park, the Arts Club is located in the Tilden Mansion which was built in the 1840’s.

Today, NAC hosts art unveilings, award dinners, film screenings, lectures, dances and many more various types of art performances. In order to help recognize untapped talents, the Arts Club’s committees frequently award scholarships to young artists, writers and singers to help them develop their talent and work towards their dreams. (Photos by Ben Gabbe)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

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AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.