AN EXTRAORDINARY MIX OF RENOWNED ARTISTS GATHER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. TO SALUTE THIS YEAR'S HONOREES AT "THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS," TO BE BROADCAST TUESDAY, DEC. 30 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townshend And Roger Daltrey Are The Honorees For The 31st Anniversary Of This Acclaimed Annual Special
Caroline Kennedy Hosts for Sixth Consecutive Year
Performers and Presenters include Beyonc�, Jack Black, Garth Brooks, Glenn Close, Chris Cornell, Clint Eastwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Marcelo Gomes, Dave Grohl, Nathan Gunn, Alan Jackson, B.B. King, Bettye Lavette, Shelby Lynne, Idina Menzel, Ne-Yo, Kelli O'Hara, Brad Paisley, Luciana Paris, Pinetop Perkins, Queen Latifah, Joss Stone, Koko Taylor, Rob Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Randy Travis and Denzel Washington
With A Special Appearance By First Lady Laura Bush
President and Mrs. George W. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Richard B. Cheney
And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Are Among the Political Attendees
Eminent artist friends and peers of this year's six honorees converged in Washington, D.C. last night (Dec. 7) to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes at THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, an entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the sixth consecutive year. This marks the 31st anniversary of this acclaimed special, which has been broadcast on CBS each year since its debut in 1978. George Stevens, Jr. is head writer and producer for the 31st consecutive year. Michael Stevens is co-producer. Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were all present at the black-tie gala in their honor.
This annual event recognizes recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. Keeping with tradition, the roster of performers and presenters remains secret prior to the gala, and a short biographical film is featured during each honoree's tribute.
Performers and presenters included Beyonc�, Jack Black, Garth Brooks, Glenn Close, Chris Cornell, Clint Eastwood, Honeyboy Edwards, Marcelo Gomes, Dave Grohl, Nathan Gunn, Alan Jackson, B.B. King, Bettye Lavette, Shelby Lynne, Idina Menzel, Ne-Yo, Kelli O'Hara, Brad Paisley, Luciana Paris, Pinetop Perkins, Queen Latifah, Joss Stone, Koko Taylor, Rob Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Randy Travis and Denzel Washington. Also, First Lady Laura Bush made a special appearance in honor of George Jones.
President and Mrs. George W. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Richard B. Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are seated with the honorees in the presidential box in the Opera House of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after having just attended the traditional White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy commenced the festivities by quoting her father, President John F. Kennedy, who said, "I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist." She described the six 2008 honorees as "a dance-mad girl from Indiana who - when push came to shove - kicked down the wall between high art and low to stage her own revolution in dance; two rockers from working class London who emerged as founding fathers of the British invasion, talking for their g-g-g-generation; a funny girl from Brooklyn whose outsized talent as a singer, actress and director let her put her stamp on the way we ...are; a lanky son of the Mississippi delta whose ease and honesty on the screen paved his path to �Glory'; and a honky-tonkin' boy from East Texas whose tear stained voice and raw emotion made him the King of Country."
Multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Denzel Washington kicked off Morgan Freeman's homage, reminiscing about how he first met Morgan Freeman when they both appeared in a production of "Coriolanus" at Shakespeare in the Park in New York City, then later had the privilege of working alongside him in the critically acclaimed feature film "Glory." About Freeman's work in "Glory," Washington stated, "In front of the camera I saw an actor who had a God-given sense of timing and a perfect ear for nuance...So we have this man that I'm proud to call my friend. He lives on the same patch of land in Mississippi that his grandparents worked - and where he spent much of his childhood. He has a 126-acre ranch with peach trees and horses. He sails his boat by himself to the Bahamas and pilots himself around the country in his own plane. And he still manages to make two or three pictures a year. Morgan is very much his own man. Now he has his own motion picture company. It's called Revelation Entertainment. Revelation's motto is: �Enlighten...Express Heart...Glorify the Human Experience.' My friend - that's what you've been doing for the last forty years - and I am so proud of you tonight."
Multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor, director and 2000 Kennedy Center Honoree Clint Eastwood, who directed Freeman in the Academy Award-winning film "Million Dollar Baby," took to the stage to introduce a musical tribute to Freeman - a Delta Blues performance by some of the most famous musicians of the genre - Grammy winners Koko Taylor (The Queen of the Blues), Pinetop Perkins and Honeyboy Edwards - together presenting a soulful rendition of "I'm a Woman." This was followed by the rousing song "Let the Good Times Roll," sung by 1995 Kennedy Center Honoree B.B. King.
Calling her "American's most influential choreographer," Academy Award nominee, Golden Globe Award and Multiple Emmy Award-winning actress Lily Tomlin paid tribute to Twyla Tharp, saying, "As a young choreographer, Twyla had an idea that dance could be more than the labels that had been pasted on it - ballet, modern, jazz. Those were just words. Twyla saw dance everywhere she looked: in a crowd of people crossing the street, in a boy tossing a newspaper from a bike, in a reach for a glass on a shelf, a step over a crack in the sidewalk. This is a woman who heard the Beach Boys...and made a ballet. Who saw a ballet danced to Mozart and thought - what would it look like danced to Jelly Roll Morton? ...Over four decades, she has created more than 135 dances and set them spinning in parks and museums, in movies and on Broadway. Dance that defies definition and won't stand still long enough to be labeled."
Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center and a personal friend and colleague of Twyla Tharp from his time as Executive Director of American Ballet Theater, was next to sing her praises. "Twyla had a reputation for being demanding, for being hard on administrators and for being unwilling to compromise. And all of these are true. But what I came to learn was that Twyla was challenging because she would never compromise on quality. She is an artist of great integrity and of immense talent and of a Puritanical work ethic. She was in the studio rehearsing yesterday and she will be back in the studio rehearsing tomorrow morning. Twyla taught me the difference between producing a ballet and producing art."
On that note, Kaiser ended his acknowledgements by introducing American Ballet Theater dancers Marcelo Gomes and Luciana Paris, performing Tharp's masterpiece, "Sinatra Suite."
Golden Globe nominee Jack Black shared how his childhood was profoundly affected by the music of the evening's next honorees, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of the legendary rock band The Who. "When I was 10 years old I fell in love with The Who. I saw the film 'Tommy' on cable television and despite Jack Nicholson's heinous rendition of �Go to the Mirror'...I was deeply moved by the music and story. I wasn't deaf, dumb or blind but I could relate to �Tommy.' I, too, wanted to be seen, felt and healed. I had a supportive family, but growing up can be tough no matter what your upbringing...and no other band had the courage or sensitivity to write those kind of emotionally raw songs...They played with real passion as if their lives depended on it...as though it might be the last day of their lives. They were legends in a time of legends. On the battlefield of rock they went toe to toe with the likes of Hendrix and emerged unscathed...triumphant dragon slayers of emotionality."
Townshend and Daltrey's musical tribute began with Grammy winning recording artist Joss Stone with a refreshing take on "My Generation." Next up was multi Grammy winner Chris Cornell singing "Won't Get Fooled Again," followed by the "Great Lady of Soul," Bettye LaVette, with a moving rendition of "Love Reign O'er Me." Next was the famous song "Who Are You" as re-interpreted by multi Grammy winning Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl. Closing the performance was Rob Thomas, Grammy winning lead singer of the rock band Matchbox Twenty, singing "Baba O'Riley."
In a very special appearance, First Lady Laura Bush came to the stage to pay tribute to one of her favorite singers of all time, country legend and 2008 honoree George Jones. "�Walk through this world with me,' sang George Jones, in one of the many beautiful numbers that my husband and I love to hear him sing," says Mrs. Bush. "Most of our lives, and throughout our life together, we have enjoyed this man's music and his very distinctive style. When I was still in school, my friends and I must have put a thousand quarters in the jukebox listening to George Jones belting out 'The Race is On' - over and over and over. There's no getting tired of a singer like him. And you don't have to be a country fan to hear the sound of musical greatness in George Jones - the rhythm, the range, and above all, that rich, one-of-a-kind voice."
The First Lady's homage concluded, "There is endless, timeless appeal in the songs of this marvelously talented man. And it's so nice to see that George Jones is still recording and still filling concert halls across America, with his dear wife Nancy alongside him every step of the way. As for me, I've been very lucky to walk through this world with my own George. And in that walk we've heard few sounds more lovely than the voice of George Jones. It's a beautiful gift to the world, and it will always bring back wonderful memories to us all."
As part of the musical homage for Jones, Grammy winner Brad Paisley crooned "Bartender's Blues," accompanied by the Rob Mathes band. Next was multi Grammy winner Randy Travis with "I'm A One Woman Man," followed by another Grammy winner, Alan Jackson, with "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Multi Grammy-winning superstar Garth Brooks rocked the house with The Possum Medley: "White Lightning," "The Grand Tour" and "The Race is On." Finally, Grammy winner Shelby Lynne concluded the tribute with a poignant rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Award-winner Queen Latifah opened the tribute to Barbra Streisand, stating, "This is a story about crossing over: crossing over the boundaries that make some people think that there's only just so far some people can go. Barbra Streisand jumped her first boundary when she took the subway from Brooklyn to Broadway in 1962. And she's been jumping over barriers ever since." She later added, "Barbra threw out the book when it came to a standardized idea of beauty. But she also wrote a new rulebook - one that said women in entertainment - that's Women with a capital W - can stand up confidently and make clear that we can do a lot of things. We're not just this kind of singer. Or that kind of actress. We don't just do what the boys want us to do. We can do it all. We can sing. We can act. We can produce. And we can lead. Not just the people who are working with us, but all the girls who have dreams like you did."
Academy Award nominee, multiple Golden Globe Award and multiple Emmy Award-winning actress Glenn Close then took the stage, speaking about her personal experience working with Streisand on the television movie "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story." Close said, "We know about the voice. I would like to talk about the vision. Margarethe Cammermeyer was the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Army ever to be discharged because of her sexual preference. She had sought high-level security clearance because she hoped to become a general. During the course of the interview, she had admitted to being a lesbian. As a highly decorated officer, who had believed the military was her life's calling, she was trying to fight back.
That is when Barbra Streisand read about Colonel Cammermeyer's situation and decided this was a story of injustice that needed to be told... �Serving in Silence' won three Emmy Awards and the Peabody Award...the movie became a watershed for the gay and lesbian community because they finally had a role model they could embrace and be proud of." Close concluded, "Barbra's choices as an actor and a filmmaker tell us a lot about who she is. 'Funny Girl,' 'The Way We Were,' 'Yentl.' Fanny Brice, Katie Morosky and Yentl are women who are fully engaged in their times - who are headstrong and provocative. Remind you of anyone?"
Streisand's musical tribute began with Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel singing "Don't Rain On My Parade." Next, multi Grammy Award-winner Beyonc� sang a touching rendition of "The Way We Were," followed by Grammy Award-winner Ne-Yo crooning "Lover, Come Back To Me" while accompanied by several suave dancers in the background. Next, host Caroline Kennedy returned to the stage, saying, "The Kennedy Center Honors tradition is rich in history. The great Leonard Bernstein was a 1980 Kennedy Center Honoree. He collaborated with 1993 Honoree Stephen Sondheim. Tonight their music links them to Barbra Streisand - with the Bernstein-Sondheim classic that Ms. Streisand has sung so beautifully, so often - "Somewhere" from "West Side Story," here are Tony Award nominee Kelli O'Hara and world renowned opera singer Nathan Gunn. As O'Hara and Gunn took the stage, an orchestra accompanying the Joyce Garrett Choir joined them for the evening's rousing conclusion.
THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is a production of the Kennedy Center. George Stevens Jr., who created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff, produced and co-wrote the show for the 31st consecutive year. Michael Stevens was a co-producer. The Honors telecast has been honored with five Emmy Awards for Outstanding Program. It has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. THE 31ST ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is sponsored in part by General Motors.
RATING: To Be Announced