Night honoring Cosby expected to lure stars
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Comedian Bill Cosby, Temple University's most famous grad, is the recipient of the 2010 Marian Anderson award.
"He's Philadelphia all the way," said Mayor Nutter, making the announcement this morning. "He's wonderfully funny but also very serious about issues relating to children and family."
A gala dinner party, scheduled for April 6 at the Kimmel Center, is expected to lure a star-studded guest list, officials said.
In October, the Kennedy Center honored Cosby with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and attendees included Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Willie Nelson, and Wynton Marsalis.
The Anderson award is for entertainers with a social conscience, and in recent years, the Philly-born and -bred Cosby has spoken out against gun violence and for changing attitudes to strengthen families and support education.
"The revolution is in your neighborhood . . . in your streets . . . in your apartment . . . in your mind," he told a crowd at a city Baptist church two years ago.
Cosby, 72, gained national fame with a series of popular comedy albums in the early 1960s, then landed a co-starring role on the action series I Spy, which turned into a long TV career. The pinnacle was the highly revered and top-rated Cosby Show, which debuted in 1984.
Past winners of the Anderson award have included Oprah Winfrey, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Gregory Peck and Elizabeth Taylor.
Last year, poet Maya Angelou and All in the Family creator Norman Lear won the annual honor for combining artistic excellence with a commitment to bettering society.
The lineup for the gala dinner will be announced in January.
The award, created in 1998, was named for the internationally acclaimed contralto from Philadelphia, who sang at John F. Kennedy's inauguration and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by President Lyndon Johnson.
Wachovia sponsors the award. PECO sponsors the gala dinner.
For more on the award, go to www.marianandersonaward.org.
Inquirer staff writer John Timpane contributed to this article.