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updated: 10/21/2013 7:30 AM

Diahann Carroll: Quick-witted honoree

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  • Diahann Carol, left, and Angela Bassett at the "House of Flowers" dinner honoring Carol and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

    Diahann Carol, left, and Angela Bassett at the "House of Flowers" dinner honoring Carol and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.
    Associated Press

By Jessica Herndon, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- At 78-years-old Diahann Carroll keeps a sense of humor.

"I don't think I realize what the passage of time really means until people talk about things that I did in the '50s and I wonder 'Who the hell are they talking about?'" the actress, singer and Golden Globe-winner said while being honored at a House of Flowers dinner Saturday evening.

Beverly Johnson, Angela Bassett, Regina King and Anika Noni Rose were in attendance to applaud Carroll and fellow honoree Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The dinner, hosted by television producer Tracey Edmonds and film and television producer Debra Martin Chase, was held at Edmonds' home.

Fellow honoree Isaacs said the evening made her feel "on top of the world" and described her new post as AMPAS president as "going from zero to 60 in four seconds."

Conceptualized by Chase and deemed House of Flowers after Truman Capote's Broadway play, in which Carroll starred in 1954, the affair was meant to "celebrate female empowerment and to help open doors for future accomplishments," said Edmonds.

"Diahann is a legend who's broken so many barriers and has always represented glamour," said Chase.

Occasionally brushing the soft curls from her face with her heavily jeweled hands, Carroll cracked grins as ladies like Johnson, Bassett and dancer and producer Debbie Allen lined up to collect hugs and kisses.

"I certainly don't feel like an icon," said Carroll in an interview before dinner. "I've had long stretches of unemployment. This is not an easy game." Later in her acceptance speech she said, "I really appreciate knowing that you've heard my name and remember it. I don't even know if I would have been allowed to drive down this street back in the `50s. Being here has given me new passion."

After a 30-year hiatus, Carroll will return to Broadway in April to play Denzel Washington's mother in "A Raisin in the Sun." Rose will also star.

A Tony Award-winner, four-time Emmy nominee, Oscar nominee and the first black actress to star in her own prime-time series, "Julia," Carroll says there is still one role she has yet to conquer: "I would love to be a part of a studio that tells our stories and has a means of growing."

"Julia" debuted in 1968. Carroll is still making TV appearances as a recurring character on USA's "White Collar."

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