Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show this week: music from Prince, and a question about the actress Katharine Hepburn. But first, a report about formal dances called proms.



Many American high school students attend proms each spring. Prom is short for promenade, a word meaning formal dance. It is traditional for a young man and woman to attend the dance together. But some American teenagers do not go to the prom on a formal date. They go with a group of friends instead. But however they go, the prom usually costs a lot of money for special clothes, flowers and dinner before the dance. Shep O'Neal tells about a way to reduce the cost of the prom.


Last year, Rebecca Kirtman was a sixteen- year-old high school student in the southern state of Florida. She was killed in a car accident. Before she died, she had collected more than two-hundred prom gowns and gave them to poor girls across the state. Such dresses can cost hundreds of dollars.

After her death, Rebecca's friends and family continued this work. They even opened a special store called Becca's Closet. More than twenty other similar stores are opening in nine states. Another is starting in Singapore.

Rebecca's family members say they are surprised that the idea has spread so quickly. They say Rebecca got the idea after reading a report about wealthy girls who gave their prom dresses to needy girls. She wrote to dress companies and asked them to send her some prom gowns. They did.

Today, Becca's Closet is an organization that provides formal dresses to young women who do not have enough money to buy one for proms or other formal dances. Where do the dresses come from? Reports say they are sent from all over the country, including some from actors in television shows.

Girls who need a dress contact the organization through its Web site and make an appointment to see the dresses. Then they go to the store and choose the one they want to wear to the dance.

The Becca's Closet web site says the organization is expanding its goals. It says that Becca's Closet will in the future include formal clothes for young men as well as women.

And the organization has established a fund to provide college financial aid to students who need it. Becca's Closet says it honors Rebecca Kirtman by continuing to help young people as she would have.

Katharine Hepburn


Our listener question this week comes from a computer science student named Tsuly, at Huazhong Agricultural University in China. Tsuly is a fan of old movies with Katharine Hepburn and wants to know more about this former star.

Katharine Hepburn once said: "Life is hard. After all, it kills you." She was famous for saying things that were funny but true. She had a sharp mind and, sometimes, a sharp tongue.

Katharine Hepburn died in July of two-thousand-three. She was in the movie business for more than sixty years. She held the record for the most Academy Awards. She won four Oscars and was nominated for eight others.

Katharine Hepburn made more than fifty movies. She was sometimes called the First Lady of Cinema. But she was a stage actress first. She performed in plays on Broadway in New York. She was nominated for two Tony awards.

In Hollywood, Katharine Hepburn said she liked movie work immediately. Her first film, "A Bill of Divorcement," was a hit. She won her first Oscar for her third movie, "Morning Glory." Her other popular movies include "The Philadelphia Story" and "The African Queen."

The actress was born in Connecticut in nineteen-oh-seven. Her father was a doctor. Her mother was an activist for the right for women to vote. Katharine Hepburn said her parents taught her freedom from fear.

She starred in nine movies with Spencer Tracy. They also had a relationship together. It lasted almost thirty years, until his death. Throughout this time, Spencer Tracy was married to another woman.

Katharine Hepburn was ninety-six years old when she died last year. Another famous Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Taylor, had these words to remember her. She said every actress in the world hoped to be like Katharine Hepburn.


(MUSIC: "Purple Rain")


That song made American rock singer Prince famous back in nineten-eighty-four. He never stopped recording and performing, but has never been as successful as he was then. Now, critics are praising his new album, Musicology. Gwen Outen has more.


Prince Rogers Nelson is forty-five years old now. Critics say his new album shows that he has grown up and has a message for his listeners. One example is this song that discusses some of the problems in the world.


But Prince has not forgotten to include a jazzy sound in his music. Here he performs the song "What Do You Want Me To Do?"


Prince says the songs on his new album represent his return to a kind of early rock music. And some critics say it sounds like the early records that made him famous. We leave you now with the title song from Prince's new album, "Musicology."



This is Doug Johnson.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Tom Verba.