Springsteen, Kaling, Louis-Dreyfus Among 22 Honored by Biden

President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Bruce Springsteen at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Bruce Springsteen at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
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Springsteen, Kaling, Louis-Dreyfus Among 22 Honored by Biden

President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Bruce Springsteen at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)
President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Bruce Springsteen at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP)

President Joe Biden welcomed a high-wattage collection of singers, authors, artists and humanitarians to the White House on Tuesday to present them with medals — and then stole the show himself with a quip about seeking reelection.

Bruce Springsteen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling and Gladys Knight were among the 22 people and organizations being honored. When novelist Colson Whitehead’s award was announced, Biden noted that the author of “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys” has already won back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes.

The president, who is expected to announce for reelection this spring, quickly picked it up.

“Pretty good man,” he told Whitehead. “I’m kind of looking for a back-to-back myself,” he added, drawing a laugh from the audience.

It was a feel-good event in the East Room, as the honorees stepped forward to receive their awards one by one. Louis-Dreyfus, who channeled Biden’s resume when she starred in “Veep,” jokingly sagged under the weight when the president placed the medal for the arts around her neck. “Wow!” she exclaimed.

Springsteen, with his everyman persona, looked incongruous in a black suit. He was lauded for “his extraordinary contributions to the American songbook, and for being ‘The Boss.’” Poet and author Richard Blanco stunned in a teal tuxedo.

Knight, the “empress of soul,” gave the president a giant hug when he put the medal around her neck. Jaclyn Sallee, who received the medal on behalf of Native America Calling, a podcast and radio show, beamed with pride. So did social historian Earl Lewis, who, according to the president, chronicles African American history and “explores how diversity strengthens our nation.”

Biden joked that he opens his closet to find one honoree, designer Vera Wang, inside — her clothes, anyway — then said, “Your dresses always look beautiful on my wife.”

The medals are Biden’s first batch of awards for the arts and humanities and were delayed by the pandemic. The president surprised Sir Elton John with a National Humanities Medal during a White House musical event last September. He told the crowd how important their work was, in keeping American culture alive and reminding people of our history - even the parts we’d like to forget. The honorees work includes dance, art, design, history as well as music, writing and philanthropy.

“You do make the country better, you make it a better place,” Biden told the crowd before they departed for a White House reception.

The honorees did not perform or speak to the crowd after they received their awards. But the US Marine Corps band that often plays for East Room ceremonies did orchestral numbers of Springsteen hits “Born to Run” and “Born in the USA.”



A Grandmother Goes for High-Action Stunts in 'Thelma'

Cast member June Squibb attends the world premiere of the film "Inside Out 2" in Los Angeles, California, US, June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Cast member June Squibb attends the world premiere of the film "Inside Out 2" in Los Angeles, California, US, June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
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A Grandmother Goes for High-Action Stunts in 'Thelma'

Cast member June Squibb attends the world premiere of the film "Inside Out 2" in Los Angeles, California, US, June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Cast member June Squibb attends the world premiere of the film "Inside Out 2" in Los Angeles, California, US, June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

At 94 years old, actor June Squibb had to convince filmmakers that she could do a lot of her own stunts in the action-packed comedy film "Thelma," about a grandmother seeking revenge.
"It was great fun, and I came into it having read the script and deciding, 'Well, I think I could do that,'" Squibb said.
She did almost all of the motor scooter stunts and a physically demanding scene in an antique store, Reuters said.
The Magnolia Pictures film, directed by Josh Margolin, follows a grandmother named Thelma who goes on a stunt-filled rampage to seek revenge against telephone scammers who took $10,000 of her savings.
The film also stars Fred Hechinger, who portrays Thelma's grandson.
Margolin said Squibb channeled her "inner Tom Cruise" very effectively as she became more and more comfortable doing her own stunts as filming progressed.
"I got more crazy about it," Squibb said, noting that while she may be in her 90s, she feels 35.
"Thelma" arrives in theaters on Friday.
Squibb's level of energy was not surprising to Hechinger after seeing her work prior to filming "Thelma."
"We met before we started filming, we just developed a friendship and a kind of artistic kinship, so I was well aware of her magic," Hechinger said.
Coming from a career spanning from Broadway to film and television, Squibb has portrayed a diversity of roles throughout her decades-long career. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for the 2013 film "Nebraska."
While the film is a comedy, for Margolin, it sheds light on how many elderly people are targeted by scammers, including his own grandmother.
"My grandma got a call like that, my family got concerned like that, and then luckily in real-life we were able to step in before she sent the money," Margolin said.
"The things she's doing are fictionalized but the character is still very drawn from a lot of elements of my real grandma, and little moments and little details and little phrases are kind of woven throughout there," Margolin added.
The film currently has a 98% rating on the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics praising Squibb's performance.
For Squibb, it's especially important that women around her age can see the movie.
"We have been at screenings, and especially older women are seeing it and coming out just glowing. They just are enjoying it so much," Squibb said.
"One woman showed us what she would do if she had a scooter. She went through the whole thing of riding a scooter for us. I just think that's wonderful. I'm so proud of that, that someone can see it and it can give them such joy," Squibb added.