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Memorial Day weekend 2018: Event guide and road closures

WASHINGTON — While many may be traveling out of town during the Memorial Day weekend, D.C. is ripe with opportunities to observe the holiday and remember fallen servicemen and women.

If you’re staying in the D.C. area to mark the unofficial start of the summer, here’s your guide to events around town and the road closures they bring.

Rolling Thunder

Motorcyclists will be revving through town Sunday, May 27, for the annual Rolling Thunder First Amendment Run.

Motorcyclists are scheduled to leave the North Pentagon parking lot at 12 p.m. Participants will ride through the area of the National Mall and end at West Potomac Park, where they will pay tribute to the fallen.

Thunder Alley, the official vendor site of the organization, will sell patches, pins, T-shirt and more on 22nd Street and Constitution Avenue NW in D.C.

In Arlington County, Washington Boulevard, Route 27, will be closed from Interstate 395 to the Memorial Bridge from 7 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. for the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally.

In D.C., the following road closures are in place Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.:

  • Constitution Avenue NW from 23rd Street NW to Third Street NW
  • 23rd Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to Memorial Bridge
  • Third Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW
  • Independence Avenue SW from Third Street SW to 23rd Street SW

Parking will not be allowed on those streets from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Vehicles parked along the route and in violation of the of the emergency no parking signs will be ticketed and towed, D.C. police said in a news release.

National Memorial Day Concert

This year’s concert kicks off at 8 p.m. Sunday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

This year’s performers include Allison Janney, The Lt. Dan Band, Leona Lewis, The National Symphony Orchestra and more.

The concert is free and open to the public. General Admission gates open at 5 p.m.

Public entrances to the West Front of the U.S. Capitol:

  • North (Senate) Side of Capitol Square: Third Street NW, and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • South (House) Side of Capitol Square: Third Street SW, and Maryland Avenue SW

Road closures will take effect early Friday morning through Monday, May 28, on the following roads:

  • First Street, SW/NW from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue
  • Maryland Avenue, SW, from First Street to Third Street
  • Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, from First Street to Third Street

All bags, coolers, backpacks and closed containers will be checked; all guests will have to go through a metal detector.

The following items are prohibited:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Glass bottles
  • Animals (other than service animals)
  • Bicycles
  • Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated)
  • Explosives of any kind (including fireworks)
  • Knives, blades or sharp objects (of any length)
  • Laser pointers
  • Signs
  • Posters
  • Mace and pepper spray, sticks and poles
  • Electric stun guns
  • Martial arts weapons or devices
  • Umbrellas larger than 36 inches in diameter (those smaller than 36″ will be allowed)
  • Pocket or hand tools such as a “Leatherman”
  • Sealed packages, large boxes, duffel bags, suitcases
  • Drones, model rockets, remote or manually-controlled model gliders, model airplanes or unmanned aircrafts, model boats and/or cars and other unmanned ground or aircraft system.

National Memorial Day Parade

The National Memorial Day Parade, the largest Memorial Day event according to the American Veterans Center’s website, is commemorating its 14th year.

This year’s parade kicks off at 2 p.m. on Monday and will feature The Tuskegee Airmen, Joe Mantegna and Trace Adkins, among other notable people.

The parade route starts at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW, proceeds on Constitution Avenue NW and disbands around 5 p.m. between 18th and 23rd Streets on Constitution Avenue and Virginia Avenue NW.

The following road closures are in place:

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

  • Seventh Street between Independence Avenue SW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • Constitution Avenue NW between Sixth Street to Ninth Street NW.

From 1 p.m. until about 5 p.m.:

  • Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW to 23rd and Constitution Avenue NW

Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery will host plenty of events on its ground Memorial Day weekend.

Participants of the Rolling Thunder’s annual Run for the Wall will arrive at Arlington National Cemetery on motorcycles Saturday and conduct a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beginning at 9 a.m.

The American Legion Riders will have a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tanner Amphitheater beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Native Youth Alliance will have a wreath-laying ceremony at the Indigenous People Memorial Tree in Section 8 at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The Japanese American Citizens League of Washington, D.C., and Japanese American Veterans Association will have its 70th annual wreath-laying ceremony Sunday at the Pavilion in the Columbarium Courts in Section 63 at 9:30 a.m.

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will conduct a Presidential Armed Forces full-honor wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Monday. It will followed by an observance program hosted by the Department of Defense in the Memorial Amphitheater.

Twenty and Four, the Honor Society of Women Legionnaires, will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony Monday at the Civil War Tomb of the Unknown in Section 26 at 1 p.m.

Volunteers with Memorial Day Flowers will place roses and other flowers on the headstones of fallen military service members. Volunteers will be meeting at noon Sunday and at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Visit the memorials

Those wanting to pay their respects to fallen servicemen and women can do so by visiting the many memorials dedicated to year-round remembrance.

From May 25 through May 27, the Poppy Memorial will be on display on the southwestern side of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial consists of the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Wall and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The memorial is located north of the Lincoln Memorial near the intersection of 22nd Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall has 19 stainless steel statues commemorating those who served on the U.S. Armed Forces that served during the Korean War. It’s located southeast of the Lincoln Memorial and south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall.

The National World War II Memorial is located on 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenue SW, at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It honors the 16 million who served during World War II, the 400,000 who died and those who supported the effort at home, according the memorial’s website. 

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial honors those who were disabled in military service. It’s located east of the Capitol and the Botanic Garden.

The post Memorial Day weekend 2018: Event guide and road closures appeared first on WTOP.

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Reality TV star pleads guilty in Coast Guardsman’s death in Va.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A former reality TV star has pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. Coast Guard technician in a drunken wrong-way collision on a Virginia highway.

The Virginian-Pilot reports 25-year-old Melissa Hancock pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated DUI manslaughter in the November 2017 death of 29-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Dill.

In March, Hancock entered pleas of no contest to driving the wrong way and failing to obey a highway sign. Those misdemeanors don’t carry jail time, but the felony manslaughter charge carries a one-year minimum jail sentence.

At the time of the crash, Dill was driving to pick up his wife and friends, who were celebrating her birthday.

Hancock appeared on Lifetime’s “Little Women: Atlanta,” a reality show about women of short stature.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 10.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

The post Reality TV star pleads guilty in Coast Guardsman’s death in Va. appeared first on WTOP.

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Ocean City among many coastal towns embracing booming art scene

WASHINGTON — There’s no shortage of natural beauty almost anywhere you look when you visit the beach. From sunrise over the ocean to sunset as wild life moves around the coastal bays, the right spot in the right light can offer a breathtaking photograph or inspiration for a painting.

“It’s funny because there’s so much natural beauty in the area and so many artists that want to paint with the sea down here … but there really was nowhere to show their work,” said Rina Thaler, the executive director of the Ocean City Art League.

But that has changed in recent years, as coastal towns start to embrace the arts up and down the beach.

A big investment was made in Ocean City when the town helped build the Art League’s new home base on 94th Street. It opened in 2013.

“The arts are something, and cultural activities are something we’ve worked to expand in Ocean City,” says Mayor Rick Meehan, “It’s an unbelievable artists’ facility.”

There’s something for everyone who carries an interest in art. Besides displays and galleries that allow artists to show off and sell their work, there’s also studio space available for artists from around the Eastern Shore to take advantage of, and classes for aspiring artists of all ages and all abilities.

“During the summer we run a four-week summer program (for kids),” Thaler says. “But we also have a lot of casual classes that are just one day. We supply all the materials, no experience needed, whether it’s in pottery or glass or fiber or painting. So people who are in Ocean City visiting the town, they might not want to go to the beach every day. They can come to the Art Center and get creative and go home with a piece of art.”

And it’s culminating with an increasing number of art shows as well. This year the town is holding its inaugural Art-X at Northside Park.

“We’re calling it Art-X: art explosion, art expression,” says Thaler. Featuring live music, film and other visual arts, it’ll turn the trail around the water at Northside Park into a big, outdoor art gallery Aug. 25-26.

“There will be about 80 artists in tents set up, and we’ll have two main stages that’ll have entertainment going all day long,” adds Thaler. “There will be workshops there, people can come in and get their hands dirty and make some art. Artists from all over the country (are) coming to sell their work. We’re going to have a craft beer garden, wine bar and kids’ activities.”

Bethany Beach holds its annual Seaside Craft Show on June 2, which allows local artists to sell their work. The Rehoboth Art League hosts its annual outdoor show over two the first two weekends in August at Henlopen Acres.

The post Ocean City among many coastal towns embracing booming art scene appeared first on WTOP.

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Q&A: Macy Gray brings signature sound to Bethesda Blues & Jazz

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews Macy Gray at Bethesda Blues & Jazz

Jason Fraley

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WASHINGTON — She has one the most unique voices in recent music memory.

This weekend, Macy Gray brings her signature raspy sound to Bethesda Blues & Jazz.

“We’re going to have a great time this weekend in Bethesda,” Gray told WTOP. “My band, we’re going to have a ball. It’s going to be like the biggest party you’ve ever been to. I can’t wait.”

Growing up in Canton, Ohio, she always knew she had a different voice from the other kids.

“When I was younger my voice was super high-pitched, so people were always knocking me and calling me names,,” Gray said. “I knew my voice was different. I didn’t think it was unique where I could do something with it until much later. But it was always a peculiar sound to it.”

Born Natalie McIntyre, she randomly discovered her stage name during a childhood bike ride.

“I was riding my bike, I fell down, I looked up and the mailbox said, ‘Macy Gray.’ That was it!” Gray said. “All through school, we would have to write stories and stuff and I would always name one of my characters ‘Macy Gray.’ Then when I joined this band in college, this rock band, everybody had to make up a name to be in the band, and so I said, ‘Macy Gray.’”

She studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California, where she also began writing songs for her musician friends. One fateful day, one of her colleagues failed to show up for a recording session, allowing Gray to step in studio and record her first real song.

“I was writing lyrics to songs, so I would write the lyrics and someone would come in and sing them. But she stopped showing up, so I had to sing the songs just to show everyone how the song went. So I already had little tapes with my voice on them, so that was the beginning.”

Promoting your band was a much different task in the era before social media.

“Back then, it was all like playing clubs, mailing your demo tape out to labels, going all over town and putting stickers of your band all over the place,” Gray said. “It was a different kind of hustle because there wasn’t all of that internet and Instagram and stuff like that.”

Soon, she was spotted at a nightclub in Los Angeles on the Sunset Strip.

“They had all these venues on Sunset that a lot of new bands would play because all the labels hang out there. Me and my band were always over there. One day, we played a space called the Roxy and a guy from Atlantic came. He was coming to see another band, but he came early and we were playing. He talked to me after and I got a record deal two weeks later.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Her debut studio album “On How Life Is” (1999) went multiplatinum, selling over three million copies on the strength of the single “I Try,” which owned the radio.

“I think lyrically everybody could relate,” Gray said. “Everybody has that situation or that relationship where they’re always talking about they’re going to leave it or they’re going to change it, and you wake up the next day and you’re not going nowhere.”

The song won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and was also nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, making Gray an international sensation.

“It changes everything,” Gray said. “Suddenly you’re on the radio and people know who you are. I had never been out of the States before, except to Canada. So I went all over the world and, I don’t know, it just opens (your eyes). You just see all of this stuff you never saw before.”

The worldwide fame got her cast in her first movie, “Training Day” (2001). Director Antoine Fuqua cast a number of musicians, including Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, rubbing elbows with Hollywood movie stars like Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington, who won the Oscar.

“I was a huge Denzel fan, so to be sitting there talking to him like he was my boy … that was wild! I wasn’t expecting that. I think it was my first movie and I had no intentions of becoming an actress. It’s different when you don’t put all that pressure on you like you want to be the best actress in the world, or when you go do it because it’s fun. … It was that kind of vibe for me. I was loose and that made it doable for me because it wasn’t all intense at the time.”

More film projects followed, starring in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” (2002), contributing to the soundtrack of “Chicago” (2002) and appearing in Netflix’s “Fuller House” (2016).

“I love acting, I just tour quite a bit with my music and I’m constantly making records in the studio, so that’s my No. 1. I’ve had to pass up on stuff because I’m doing stuff with my music.”

That focus on her music led to her upcoming tenth album “Ruby,” due out in September.

“It’s my favorite album,” she said. “I can’t wait for you to hear it. You guys are gonna play it like crazy on the radio. You’re gonna hear it, trust me. It’s amazing. You’re gonna love it.”

Find more details on the venue website. Hear our full conversation with Macy Gray below:

WTOP’s Jason Fraley chats with Macy Gray (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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The post Q&A: Macy Gray brings signature sound to Bethesda Blues & Jazz appeared first on WTOP.

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Football is easier for Norman after ‘Dancing With the Stars’

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Josh Norman thought football was difficult.

Then he appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.”

The Washington Redskins cornerback had some impressive performances with dance partner Sharna Burgess on the show in Los Angeles and each week took a red-eye back to the East Coast for the team’s offseason program. Norman and Burgess finished second to skater Adam Rippon and Jenna Johnson.

Norman was back on the field this week with a new appreciation for dancing and a fresh approach to his day job.

“My mindset is a bit different,” Norman said Wednesday. “I can go further now than I thought I could and push myself to pretty much a new level, I feel, a new height. So now I look at things and I (used to) be like, ‘That’s hard.’ Nah, I don’t think so.”

Norman didn’t quite know what to expect out of “Dancing With the Stars,” which included 12-hour days of learning, practicing, rehearsing and performing . Add in the cross-country flights and Norman was more fatigued than after a one-on-one showdown with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

He approached the performances like NFL games, though, and was glad he took on the adventure that reminded him of theater class in college.

“You could be someone else,” Norman said. “You could be different. Everybody is different in their own right, and everybody work to a common goal. Part of it is just going out there amongst athletes and trying to best them all.”

Norman got a good laugh about going shirtless for dance routines because “there’s a lot of cougars that like the shirt off” and knew voting was involved. Taking a temporary break from his pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy, Norman came away crushed that he didn’t help Burgess win the Mirrorball Trophy she has been trying for the past seven years.

“This was the year to break that curse and I wasn’t the one to do it and it’s just like, ‘Dang,’” Norman said. “It’s like a heart-throbbing gut-puncher that I couldn’t be the one for her to get over the hump.”

Norman was a winner to his teammates, a handful of whom traveled to L.A. to watch the finale Monday. Running back Chris Thompson was impressed by the dance moves and felt his teammate “got cheated.”

“I never saw Josh as being a dancer, for one,” Thompson said. “It was great. It was just cool just to see somebody doing something different.”

Coach Jay Gruden said he watched every episode and came away impressed with Norman’s rhythm, execution and willingness to balance dancing and football.

“The work that he put in to get ready for that show and also fly back out on red eyes and get here for practice or OTAs, I just really had a lot of admiration for what he did and what he accomplished because that’s not easy,” Gruden said. “I thought he should’ve won the dang thing. I think he got ripped off, to be honest with you.”

Even in a losing effort, Norman figures “Dancing With the Stars” helped his physical and mental preparation, his footwork, posture and focus. Call it a journey of self-discovery.

“It taught me a lot about myself,” Norman said. “I grew tremendously. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else from it than that.”

With the Redskins in the middle of organized team activities, Norman was hardly breaking a sweat Wednesday after what he had been through under the lights each week dancing.

“This is a cakewalk,” he said. “This is like picking daisies.”


For more AP NFL coverage: https://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

The post Football is easier for Norman after ‘Dancing With the Stars’ appeared first on WTOP.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus to receive Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor

WASHINGTON — “Get out!” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who brought us such beloved TV characters as Elaine Benes and Selina Meyer, is slated to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The “Seinfeld” and “Veep” star will receive the 21st annual prize at a formal gala at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday, Oct. 21, which will be broadcast nationally on PBS.

The annual event features some of the biggest names in comedy, who walk the red carpet and then provide on-stage tributes to the comedian, who watches from the balcony.

Past honorees include Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009; rescinded in 2018), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), Carol Burnett (2013), Jay Leno (2014), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016) and David Letterman (2017).

“Merely to join the list of distinguished recipients of this award would be honor enough, but, as a student of both American history and literature, the fact that Mr. Twain himself will be presenting the award to me in person is particularly gratifying,” Louis-Dreyfus joked.

As a recipient, Louis-Dreyfus will receive a copy of an 1884 Mark Twain bronze bust sculpted by Karl Gerhardt. The bust was memorably passed around the audience by Murray in 2016.

“Like Mark Twain, Julia has enriched American culture with her iconic, unforgettable, and outright hilarious brand of humor,” Kennedy Center president Deborah F. Rutter said. “Over four decades, her wildly original characters and her gift for physical comedy have left us in stitches. Julia is a role model for so many, and we look forward to honoring her on Oct. 21.”

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist, essayist, satirist and social commentator Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain.

Ticket information will be available at a later date, but  sponsorship packages are on sale now.

The post Julia Louis-Dreyfus to receive Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor appeared first on WTOP.

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National Memorial Day Concert to feature historic Silver Star woman

WASHINGTON — The National Memorial Day Concert is an annual tradition for D.C. residents to attend on the National Mall and for Americans around the world to watch on television.

“It’s quite a night in Washington,” host Joe Mantegna told WTOP. “There’s a reason why [it’s] the most-watched show on PBS. … It made me realize how important Memorial Day is. It’s our most important holiday because it’s the one holiday that allows us to have all the others.”

Montegna has emceed since 2002, most of those alongside Gary Sinise (“Forrest Gump”).

“It is a little buddy thing, two guys from Chicago,” Mantegna said. “I suggested they bring in Gary and the Lt. Dan Band, because he’d been traveling all over the world entertaining the troops. … When the concert was over, Gary was so moved by the event, he said, ‘I’ll come back and do this anytime you want.’ I said, ‘They just asked me to take over for Ossie Davis to host. Those are big shoes to fill. Why don’t we do it together?’ We’ve been co-hosting ever since.”

Other celebrities include Leona Lewis (“Bleeding Love”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Graham Greene (“Dances with Wolves”), Mary McCormack (“Deep Impact”), John Corbett (“Northern Exposure”), Charles Esten (“Nashville”), Cynthia Erivo (“The Color Purple”), Megan Hilty (“Smash”), Alfie Boe (“Les Miz”) and Jack Everly with the National Symphony Orchestra.

“It a twofold thing,” Mantegna said. “You’re out grilling a burger, watching the Indy 500, whatever you do, we’ve decided collectively as a country, let’s put this day aside, the last Monday in May. … Yet on the other hand, there’s the solemnity of knowing you’re honoring people who made the sacrifice that allows you to have a celebration of your life [and] country.”

To that point, the concert is a wonderful chance to honor our military heroes, including Iraq War veteran SFC Leigh Ann Hester, who was the first woman ever to receive the Silver Star for valor in combat. Growing up in Kentucky, Hester seemed destined for military service.

“My uncle and my grandfather were both veterans, one World War II, the other Vietnam,” Hester said. “I was kind of a tomboy when I was a kid. I would always look up to women in uniform, whether it was an army or police uniform. That’s what encouraged and excited me.”

At age 19, she enlisted in the U.S. Army. That was in April 2001, just months before 9/11.

“It put a true scent of realism,” she said. “I was waiting to be shipped off to basic training when Sept. 11 happened. … When we went to basic training, the drill sergeants were even tougher because they are veterans and knew what was probably going to happen in the near future. It’s a huge gut check when you’re a young kid … knowing we’re probably going to war.”

Then came the fateful day on March 20, 2005.

“Our job was to do MSR (main supply route) patrol and clear them of IEDs, insurgents and make sure that convoys carrying various supplies … could get through the area [to] drop off supplies. … One of the convoys came through that morning about 10:30 and we happened to turn around on them and follow them to make sure they got through our area safely. Little did we know, there was about 50-60 insurgents down the road that were set up in ambush.”

That’s when the firefight happened.

“The front of the convoy got attacked with RPGs and a mass amount of small-arms fire. My squad of nine MP’s and one medic put ourselves between the insurgents and the convoy. We dismounted and fought the enemy until they were suppressed or were no longer a threat.”

What was going through Hester’s head during the attack?

“I think for me it was more of an adrenaline rush,” Hester said. “You always go back and rely on your training, but it was almost surreal like, ‘Is this really happening?’ I remember the intense sound of the gunfire. We’re yelling at each other, telling each other where to go, where to shoot, shooting our rifles, throwing grenades. It was almost like a video game if you can imagine — but with the potential of a deadly outcome. It was almost indescribable.”

She says the historic nature of her Silver Star is an honor, but that she was just doing her job.

“That’s always been my mentality: as long as somebody can do the job, it doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman,” she said. “That moment was humbling. I don’t know if I realized how big it was actually going to be being the first woman to receive a Silver Star. … I hope that my story had a positive influence on proving that … women can do the same job as men.”

Fittingly, the Memorial Day concert will include the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus and Army Voices, The Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, The U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, The Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of D.C.

“It’s one of the most important holidays,” she said. “It’s in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s important for people to realize what the holiday is for, not just for cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, but the real meaning behind it. It’s also important to honor the families — veteran families, Gold Star families. Without family support, we could not do our jobs overseas if we didn’t have somebody waiting to come back home to.”

The concert airs live on PBS at 8 p.m. and will be live-streamed on PBS.org and YouTube.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley chats with host Joe Mantegna (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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WTOP’s Jason Fraley chats with Leigh Ann Hester (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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The post National Memorial Day Concert to feature historic Silver Star woman appeared first on WTOP.

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Q&A: Frank Caliendo hits DC Improv with Trump, Bush, Obama impressions

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews Frank Caliendo at DC Improv

Jason Fraley | November 30, -0001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Frank Caliendo hears voices in his head.

That is, the voices of celebrity impressions that he is mastered over the years.

Next week, Mr. Caliendo Goes to Washington for a sold-out show at the D.C. Improv on May 30, bringing with him a collection of presidential voices, including President Donald Trump.

“I’ve been doing a Trump [impression] for quite some time, so it was very easy,” Caliendo said, slipping into his best impersonation of the president. “It was simple. It was tremendous. It was ready to go. And right now, let me just say this, Jason, as great as you are, and you are a great guy, let me just say this — this is probably the No. 1 rated segment you’ll ever do.”

In addition to the braggadocios demeanor, what’s the key to doing a Trump impression?

“That’s the other thing Donald Trump can do — he describes a word with a word,” Caliendo said. “He just puts an adverb after it, you know like, ‘That’s tremendously tremendous.’”

You can also expect to hear impressions of other previous presidents.

“When you’re a former president, the questions they ask you are simple. They let you knock them out of the park,” Caliendo said. “With George W. Bush, that’s always great because you never know what he is going to say. They’ll ask you things like, ‘What have you been doing since you’ve been president?’ And he’ll say, ‘Well, uh, I’m not really sure! I guess I’ve been working on my Facebook page, I’ve been Tweetering and playing some Pokemon Go.”

Caliendo can also do a spot-on Barack Obama.

“Ugh, let me be clear. When you do the Barack Obama impression, you talk slow at the beginning and speed up the end,” Caliendo said in perfect cadence.

Is there room for Bill Clinton on our presidential conference call?

“You bet there is! I’m just busy right now!” Caliendo joked.

How does he shift from one voice to the other with rapid-fire recall?

“It’s just part of being brilliant,” Caliendo joked. “I grew up loving Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters and the way they would switch between characters and create scenes. That’s kind of where I saw that and thought, ‘Wow, I think I could do that.’ Once you set them to muscle memory, you can go from voice to voice. … I can see each person as I’m saying them.”

Caliendo’s talent was introduced to the world on “Fox NFL Sunday,” taking over the comic-relief role from Jimmy Kimmel, who left for his own late-night talk show on ABC.

“Kimmel would just needle them and rip them really hard. They were happy when it was me because I was more cherubic and silly,” he said before slipping into a Trump voice. “Cherubically cherubic! The Cherubically Cherubik’s Cube is the number one Rubik’s Cube because it’s bigger.”

Each week, Caliendo would create original comedy segments with game predictions between analysis by then hosts James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson.

“Can’t stand any of them,” he joked. “They’re great! You usually got one joke per guy, so it better hit, otherwise it’s a waste of time. … The most difficult thing about that segment is that you’re going into a sports audience every week and you have to do comedy. It’s the only thing in the show that’s not organic. … If there wasn’t a story going on in the NFL or something that was too touchy, it was just time to make fun of the guys. They were always good about it.”

The sports audience allowed him to impersonate athletes and coaches, such as Mike Ditka.

“You gotta chew gum first and then you get done chewing them gum, then I insult ya,” Caliendo said. “That’s basically all there is to Ditka.”

His most famous impression is probably John Madden.

“You think of the things you do, the things you don’t do and BOOM!” Caliendo said. “He’s not even in the video game anymore! His own video game with his name on it, they couldn’t take his name off the game because it sold so many copies. It was just branded that. If they went to EA Sports Football, nobody would care, they’d just call it, ‘Madden.’ So they bought him out. They bought his name out and he is not even in it anymore. How crazy is that?”

My personal favorite is his “turrible” impression of Charles Barkley.

“He’s so honest; I love Charles,” he said. “News stations will go to Charles Barkley ’cause he is the only guy willing to tell the truth about everything. … [He said], ‘I want to punch Draymond Green in the face.’ Everyone got upset, so in rare Charles Barkley form, he apologized but the apology was like, ‘I apologize for Draymond Green having such a punchable face.”

How would Jon Gruden describe his chat with WTOP?

“I tell ya what, man, this is the best time I’ve ever had in my life. I used to work at Hooters, man. Cooking fries. That was nothing compared to this. I coached the Oakland Raiders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders again. In the meantime, I worked at ‘Monday Night Football’ at ESPN — and nothing has been better than talking to you on the W-TOP.”

Listen to our full conversation with Frank Caliendo below:

WTOP’s Jason Fraley chats with Frank Caliendo (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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Miss Nebraska wins Miss USA competition

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Miss Nebraska has been named Miss USA.

Sarah Rose Summers beat out 50 other women from all the states and the District of Columbia.

At the start of the two-hour broadcast, the field was immediately narrowed down to 15 contestants according to how they performed during preliminary rounds held in the days before Monday’s broadcast.

Then the field was narrowed down during the evening gown, swimsuit and interview portions of the competition.

Summers takes over from Kara McCullough, who won the competition last year when it was held in Las Vegas.

Summers now goes on to represent the U.S. in the Miss Universe competition.

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George Stevens Jr. adds history to the film academy library

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — American Film Institute founder and Kennedy Center Honors creator George Stevens Jr. is adding another chapter to film history by donating hundreds of items spanning five generations of his family to film academy’s Margaret Herrick Library and its archive.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday that Stevens Jr. will be contributing papers, letters, photographs and scripts from his life to the Stevens Family collection. The public collection of over 600 items will cover everything from his Hollywood beginnings working alongside his father George Stevens, the legendary director of film classics like “Woman of the Year,” to Washington D.C. where he worked with Edward R. Murrow at the United States Information Agency during the Kennedy administration.

Along the way he also founded the American Film Institute, in 1967 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1977, which he produced until 2014. He made award-winning films and miniseries like the Sidney Poitier-led “Separate but Equal” and served eight years as chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities under President Barack Obama.

“I’m a great believer in the importance of history as it applies to motion pictures,” Stevens Jr., 86, of his decision to add his own papers to the Stevens Family collection, as well as items from his extraordinary family, whose contributions to the entertainment industry span the history of film.

His great grandmother Alice Howell was considered the “female Chaplin,” his mother was a Mack Sennett bathing beauty, his father was the Oscar-winning director of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and his late son Michael Stevens was an Emmy Award-winning producer, and those are just a few of the names on the family tree.

Stevens Jr.’s previous donation of a wide-ranging record of his father’s distinguished career in 1980 helped turn the Margaret Herrick Library into an internationally respected resource, and has informed books like Mark Harris’s “Five Came Back” and Don Graham’s account of the making of “Giant.”

Collection highlights displayed on the film academy’s website include personal photos of Stevens Jr., including one of him standing alongside, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean (who Stevens Jr. calls Jimmy) and his father in Marfa, Texas in 1955 on the set of “Giant.”

“That’s kind of a favorite picture,” Stevens Jr. said. “I worked with my dad on the script and then went in the Air Force for two years and came back and worked with him on the editing. That was the pace he was moving at!”

The collection is a treasure trove for film buffs, where an ordinary family photo could be on the set of “Shane,” at the Academy Awards in 1951, when George Stevens was nominated for “A Place in the Sun,” or during the Amsterdam production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” with cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Look closer and you’ll see Stevens Jr. being sworn in at the USIA, or speaking with Jacqueline Kennedy.

“It was a life-changing experience leaving Hollywood to run the motion picture service of USIA making documentary films,” Stevens Jr. said. “After President Kennedy’s death Jackie got all of these hundreds of thousands of letters and she wanted to thank the public and so she asked me to film something for her. I went to the house she was staying in Georgetown and we filmed a message to the people for her in 35 millimeter color.”

One particularly important item is a letter from John F. Kennedy that wasn’t even written to him, but just about his work. Dated October 21, 1963, Kennedy wrote to Murrow that “The Five Cities of June” is “one of the finest documentaries the USIA has ever done.” Stevens Jr. produced the short film detailing President Kennedy’s trips in June 1963, including his famous trip to Germany and his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. It would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

On November 23, Stevens Jr. went to speak to Murrow and was handed the letter.

“It had been in his hands three weeks earlier which was profoundly moving,” Stevens Jr. said, who tried to give the letter back to Murrow, but Murrow refused. “He said, ‘You made the film, you keep the letter,’ which is all you need to know about Edward R. Murrow.”

The stories run deep for each photo — there’s James Cagney getting an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, but did you know he wrote his speech on a shirt board that you’d find at a laundry? Or that Stevens Jr.’s first big casting coup was getting Sidney Poitier to star in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” which would lead to a lifelong friendship with the actor?

Stevens Jr. is working on getting it all down in a book too, which he laughs is on track for publication in “early 2030.” It’s quite a life for someone who originally thought he wanted to be a sportswriter.

He thinks back to the documentary he made about his father nine years after his death in 1984, “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey,” which begins with a quote that he discovered in one of his father’s diaries.

“It read, ‘Life is a journey and it’s most interesting when you don’t know where you’re going,’” he said. “And that turned out to be true of mine.”


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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