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David Rubenstein debuts as new Kennedy Center chairman

Chris Matthews, left, with incoming Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein Saturday night. (Daniel Schwartz)

Three days after he was elected chairman of the Kennedy Center, David Rubenstein made his unofficial debut Saturday as the new guy in charge -- and was mobbed by well-wishers. "I'm in the honeymoon period," the co-founder of the Carlyle Group told us. "I hope it's not a high-water mark."

Oh, he can afford to be modest! Everyone else was thrilled that he's taking over the reins in May. "We're all very excited about David," said philanthropist Catherine Reynolds, who hosted a black-tie dinner with Rubenstein and other Washington A-listers before the Mariinsky Opera's performance of the epic (and long) "War and Peace."

Rubenstein, who's been on the center's board for the past six years, got high praise for his local focus, arts patronage and fundraising savvy. "This is a large, complicated arts organization," said KenCen President Michael Kaiser. "To have a chairman who appreciates the financial complexities is very useful."

And the fact that he's a billionaire? "That helps, too," Kaiser said with a grin.

The press-shy new chair said he's reluctantly giving up his low-profile ways. "You can do a fair bit behind the scenes, but when you get to a certain point they tend to give you leadership positions," he said. "This organization is in very good shape, but I'll do what I can."

By The Reliable Source  |  March 8, 2010; 2:02 AM ET
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