The John Steinbeck Award

Sean Penn

On September 10 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, a capacity crowd heard social activist and actor Sean Penn offer candid answers to his interviewer Peter Coyote, as expected. But the audience could scarcely believe what they saw as the benefit was concluding: Bruce Springsteen, unexpected and unannounced, walking onstage to present the Steinbeck Award. Of the Academy Award-winning actor, Springsteen said, "He risks his coolness with the choices he makes. He never cheats his audience.” Penn thanked Springsteen, calling him "one of the most creative inspirations in my life," and then asked for the audience's indulgence as he read a five-minute passage railing against war. It sounded like vintage Penn, but as Penn revealed, the author was in fact John Steinbeck.