James Earl Jones Honored at the American Theater Wing Gala

Broadway luminaries attended the American Theater Wing gala on Monday night at the Plaza Hotel to honor James Earl Jones: Angela Lansbury, Tony Bennett, and Cecily Tyson, who is starring with Jones in The Gin Game. The annual event always features performances in the Plaza's Grand Ballroom: among other performers, Norm Lewis blew everyone away with a medley from Les Miserables. American Theater Wing chair William Ivey Long took the stage to introduce the award presenters George Lucas and Samuel L. Jackson. "No," said Long, "I never costumed James Earl Jones." Jackson paid tribute saying he tried out for Ragtime because Jones, an actor of color, was out there. He didn't get the job. George Lucas--Jones was the voice of Darth Vader, the unforgettable villain of Star Wars-- proclaimed, "If you want to make a strong movie, you have to make a strong theater."

Then they brought Jones to the stage for the actual awarding: We have a plaque, and we have a sterling silver money clip. "All right," said Jones in the deepest tones of his appreciation--even though there was no money in it: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so [pause] old. Starting in 1955 I took classes in Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and [pause] George Lucas," he said getting a big laugh. "I was taught not to put ethnic or gender limits on roles. I can't thank you enough, no matter how old I get."

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.