CBS Telecasts the Annual Kennedy Center Honors
By Ellis Nassour
On December 26, as everyone’s winding down from midnight and sunrise services and Santa’s visit, CBS will telecast a star-studded, two-hour wrap of the December 2 Kennedy Center Honors with inductions of blues guitarist man Buddy Guy, Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman, late night TV host David Letterman, prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, and the classic rock group Led Zeppelin. They were recognized for "lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, movies, and TV."
Buddy Guy, Natalia Makarova, Dustin Hoffman [L-R, front]; John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, David Letterman [L-R, rear]
For the 10th consecutive year, Caroline Kennedy hosted. Those performing and presenting tributes included Alec Baldwin, Jeff Beck, Jack Black, Tracy Chapman, Gary Clark, Jr., Scottish comic Billy Connolly, 2009 Honoree and Oscar winner Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Foo Fighters, Morgan Freeman, Judith Jamison, Kid Rock, Jimmy Kimmel, Lenny Kravitz, the Rob Mathes Band, Laura Osnes, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Romano, Liev Schreiber, Jimmie Vaughan, Naomi Watts, and sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson (Heart).
President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama were seated in the Presidential Box of the Center’s Opera House. Earlier, they hosted a reception at the White House.
2009 Honoree and Oscar winner Robert De Niro saluted longtime friend Hoffman, calling him "a world-class, spectacular, colossal pain in the ass. Before Dustin burst on the scene, it was pretty much okay for movie stars to show up, read their lines, and, if the director insisted, act a little … Then Dustin came along and just had to get everything right. He made a statement that what the actor does is important … It inspired me to become a pain in the ass, too … [becoming] one of the best character actors, best movie stars, best leading men to ever hit stage or screen … Dustin, you make me proud to be an actor. And I’m proud to call you my friend."
Emmy-winning dancer/choreographer and 1999 Honoree Judith Jamison, artistic director, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, paid tribute to the Russian-born, Tony-winning Natalia Makarova, who performed with Jamison at American Ballet Theatre. Royal Ballet of London principal dancer Alina Cojocaru; Barcelona Ballet’s Angel Corella; ABT principal dancers Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Julie Kent, and Veronika Part; and NYC Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck danced tributes.
Oscar winner Morgan Freeman saluted Guy, a 2005 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, stating that he "mastered the soul of ‘gut bucket music,’" raw Mississippi blues, and "found a new music in it that no one had ever seen before. And without the Internet, without YouTube, without even FM radio, you went viral … [making] a bridge from roots to rock and roll."
Emmy-winning actress and comedienne Tina Fey honored Emmy winner Letterman, remarking, "Dave’s someone you watch not just because you like him, but also because you hope that he would like you … [he] doesn’t fake-like everyone. In fact, you could argue that Mr. Letterman is at his best when he’s interviewing someone whom, maybe, he doesn’t like … [he’s] the closest thing we have to a present-day Walter Cronkite. His honesty and intelligence have shepherded us through national crises. Our concern for his health has been a national worry … David Letterman is an American treasure, like the Grand Canyon, or the Chicago skyline, or the top two Kardashians."
Emmy winner Alec Baldwin said, "Watching [him] is like being on a roller coaster. It’s exhilarating. It’s also dangerous, scary, and makes you sweat… and that’s just the viewers. Imagine what it’s like for those of us who are guests … Dave’s so clever, witty and powerful … There’s just no one better ." Emmy-winning late night host Jimmy Kimmel added that Letterman doesn’t just host a TV show. "I don’t remember the first time I watched, but I remember the feeling I got when I found it. It was as if someone was doing a show specifically for me. I had never seen anything like it. Dave was funny in a way I’d never seen anyone be funny before."
Jack Black introduced the tribute to multiple Grammy winners Led Zeppelin, calling them "the greatest rock and roll band of all time … Better than the Beatles. Better than the Stones."
The Emmy-winning Kennedy Honors were written and co-produced by George Stevens, Jr. for the 35th year.