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[12/07/09 - 09:17 AM]
An Extraordinary Mix of Renowned Artists Gather in Washington, D.C. to Salute This Year's Honorees at "The 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors"
Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen were honored at this year's event, airing Tuesday, December 29 on CBS.

[via press release from CBS]

AN EXTRAORDINARY MIX OF RENOWNED ARTISTS GATHER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. TO SALUTE THIS YEAR'S HONOREES AT "THE 32ND ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS," TO BE BROADCAST TUESDAY, DEC. 29 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK

Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen Are The Honorees For The 32nd Anniversary Of This Acclaimed Annual Special

Caroline Kennedy Hosts for Seventh Consecutive Year

Performers and Presenters include Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Jack Black, Matthew Broderick, Harry Connick, Jr., Cory English, Simon Estes, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Angela Gheorghiu, Herbie Hancock, Ben Harper, Shuler Hensley, Harvey Keitel, Ron Kovic, Jane Krakowski, Richard Kind, Frank Langella, John Mellencamp, Matthew Morrison, Jennifer Nettles, Edward Norton, Carl Reiner, Stephen A. Schwarzman, Martin Scorsese, Martin Short, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Sting, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep And Eddie Vedder

President and Mrs. Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Also In Attendance

Eminent artist friends and peers of this year's five honorees converged in Washington, D.C. last night (Dec. 6) to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes at THE 32ND ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, an entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 29 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the seventh consecutive year. This marks the 32nd 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 32nd consecutive year. Michael Stevens is co-producer and co-writer. Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Bruce Springsteen were all present at the black-tie gala held 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 Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Jack Black, Matthew Broderick, Harry Connick, Jr., Cory English, Simon Estes, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Angela Gheorghiu, Herbie Hancock, Ben Harper, Shuler Hensley, Harvey Keitel, Ron Kovic, Jane Krakowski, Richard Kind, Frank Langella, John Mellencamp, Matthew Morrison, Jennifer Nettles, Edward Norton, Carl Reiner, Stephen A. Schwarzman, Martin Scorsese, Martin Short, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Sting, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep and Eddie Vedder.

President and Mrs. Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at 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 look forward to an America that will not be afraid of grace and beauty. I look forward to an America that will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft." She described the five 2009 honorees as "a piano virtuoso from the California hills whose inspired rhythms made him America's herald of a new age of jazz; a good fella from the mean streets of New York who redefined acting and made movie audiences an offer they couldn't refuse; the little girl from a St. Louis church choir who could hit high C and became the diva we cheered in the houses of grand opera; a mischievous boy from Brooklyn who provoked billions of laughs by walking loudly and carrying a big schtick; and a rocker from the Jersey Shore who composed his own musical universe and - across America and the world - became the Boss."

Multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, who starred opposite Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor, director and producer Robert De Niro in the feature films Falling in Love and The Deer Hunter, kicked off his homage by reminiscing about how she first saw De Niro in the feature films Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets while she was in drama school and was astonished at his versatility. "Then came Taxi Driver and that was it. De Niro was it. Gold Standard. He's the one we all went to school on, were inspired by, stole from...He did what I, in my drama school dreams, aspired to do: disappear into, morph into a person different from myself; to make it seamless, and FEEL it, to really feel what it feels like to be someone else...you might not know it if you're not an actor...you'd think it was magic. It's not. It's work, meticulous, painstaking: the work of a master artist."

Multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winning director and 2007 Kennedy Center Honoree Martin Scorsese, who directed De Niro in multiple films including

Goodfellas and Raging Bull, continued his tribute, stating, "For any director, Robert De Niro is a guide and a lifesaver. For me, he's a guide and a lifesaver and a true friend. After we made our first couple of pictures together in Hollywood, I took a detour and ended up in New York Hospital. I guess the L.A. weather finally got to me. Bob came to see me. He had a question...�What's the matter, Marty, don't you want to see how it all turns out?' I did want to see how it turned out. Bob took me away and locked us up for two and a half weeks. He brought along Paul Schrader's screenplay. It �turned out' to be Raging Bull. And I turned out...well, I'm here." De Niro's tribute concluded with congratulatory remarks by Academy Award nominated actor Harvey Keitel, Golden Globe Award-winning actor Edward Norton, Emmy Award-winning actor Ben Stiller and Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Sharon Stone, all of whom appeared in feature films with De Niro.

Multiple Grammy Award-winning musician Herbie Hancock took the stage to talk about pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, whom he credits as his musical inspiration. "When I first heard Dave Brubeck, that was the beginning of my long-term relationship with jazz. I had been playing classical piano since I was seven. When I was a teenager, I started listening to and playing jazz. When Time Out was released, it was a whole different spin on the jazz I'd been used to. Who could have imagined that this completely new music could be such a hit? This was 1959. There were new things happening in jazz, but not on the radio! The experimental stuff was in the little clubs, the after-midnight jam sessions, a few records here and there. But with Time Out, jazz took off into the stratosphere."

Hancock then introduced a musical tribute to Brubeck: A jazz performance by some of the most famous musicians of the genre - Grammy Award winner Christian McBride ("Illuminations"), Grammy Award nominee Bill Charlap, Jon Faddis, Bill Stewart and Miguel Zenon - performing together as the Brubeck All-Star Jazz Quintet, presenting an intricate medley of Brubeck classics "Unsquare Dance," "The Duke" and "In Your Own Sweet Way," followed by renditions of "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a La Turk."

Multiple Emmy Award-winning actor Carl Reiner paid tribute to multiple Academy Award, Emmy Award, Grammy Award and Tony Award-winning writer, composer, actor, director and producer Mel Brooks, speaking of how he had known Brooks for more than 60 years, having most famously collaborated with him on the 1975 television show, "The 2000 Year Old Man."

Next, Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominated actor Frank Langella, who appeared in the Mel Brooks-directed movie The Twelve Chairs in 1970, introduced a rousing musical tribute to Brooks, playfully entitled "The Music of Mel," beginning with his own spoken word version of "Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst," which he originally performed in the movie. He was followed by Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Martin Short, who starred in the successful Mel Brooks Broadway musical The Producers, performing a hilarious rendition of another Brooks classic, "He Wore a Blazing Saddle," from the 1974 movie Blazing Saddles. Next up was Golden Globe nominee Jack Black with "Men in Tights," from the Mel Brooks-directed 1993 movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights, followed by Grammy Award and Emmy Award-winning musician and actor Harry Connick, Jr. with "High Anxiety" from the 1977 movie of the same name. Connick, Jr. was followed by actor Richard Kind singing "The Inquisition" from the 1981 movie, History of the World Part 1. Then came a Broadway medley, with Tony Award-winner Jane Krakowski singing "When You Got It, Flaunt It," Tony Award-winner Roger Bart, Tony Award-winner Shuler Hensley and singer Cory English with "Together Again (For the First Time)," Tony Award nominee Matthew Morrison and Tony Award-winner Gary Beach with "Springtime for Hitler," Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick singing "I Wanna Be a Producer," and all of the performers concluding the thoroughly enjoyable performance with "Til Him."

Multiple Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman, who directed and choreographed the sensational, record-breaking Broadway musical The Producers for Mel Brooks, choreographed the entire Mel Brooks tribute performance.

Multiple Grammy Award-winner and 1994 Kennedy Center Honoree Aretha Franklin opened the tribute to opera singer Grace Bumbry stating, "There was a time when you earned your diva-ness. You could do it by having a voice that started like a gift from God, then developed with the dedicated work of Man; you played all the great opera houses of the world, you broke new ground, you thrilled millions of people. Now that's how you get to be a real diva. Grace Bumbry has done all that. ...For the first Honors, thirty-one years ago, the Kennedy Center knew they had to make a statement in both the selection of Honorees and the great artists invited to salute them. They honored five geniuses - George Balanchine, Arthur Rubenstein, Richard Rogers, Fred Astaire and a hero of mine, the most important soprano of her day, the ground-breaking Marian Anderson. That night an elegant woman appeared on this stage and with heartbreaking beauty sang from 'Tosca,' 'Vissi d'arte' - My Life is Art - in tribute to Ms. Anderson. That woman was Grace Bumbry and tonight her journey comes full circle." Opera singer Simon Estes then took the stage to introduce a musical homage for Bumbry, with one of opera's greatest international stars, Angela Gheorgiu, performing "Vissi d'arte" - My Life is Art - from "Tosca."

Multiple Emmy Award-winning talk show host Jon Stewart opened a funny and touching tribute to multiple Grammy Award, Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, stating that although on paper he and Springsteen didn't seem to have much in common, they have one very important thing that binds them - they are both from New Jersey. "I am not a music critic. Nor historian, nor archivist. I cannot tell you where Bruce Springsteen falls in the pantheon of the American songbook. I cannot illuminate the context of his work, or its roots in the folk and oral history traditions of our great nations. But I am from New Jersey. So, I can tell you what I believe. And what I believe is that Bob Dylan and James Brown had a baby. Yes! And they abandoned this child, as you can imagine at the time...interracial, same sex relationships being what they were...they abandoned this baby by the side of the road between the exit interchanges 8A and 9 on the Jersey Turnpike...that child was Bruce Springsteen." He continued, "I believe that Bruce Springsteen is an unprecedented combination of lyrical eloquence, musical mastery and sheer unbridled, unadulterated joy. Exuberance in the act of telling stories so familiar, stories that have never been told so well or so uniquely. And I know he's hating this right now. He's a modest man, and he doesn't like sitting there in that little box, with his little suit, wearing a little rainbow dreamcatcher or whatever they have on there...he doesn't like it. He wishes he had his guitar and that I would shut up, but I will not. He is the Boss...But I didn't understand his music for a long time, until I began to yearn. Until I began to question the things that I was making and doing in my own life. Until I realized that it wasn't just about the joyful parade on stage and the theatrics. It was about stories of lives that could be changed. And that the only status that you could fail to achieve is the status quo. The only thing, the only failure in life was not to make the effort to change our station. And it resonated with me because, and I say this truly to him...I would not be here, God knows, not even in this business if it were not for the inspirational words and music of Bruce Springsteen."

Golden Globe Award-winning writer Ron Kovic then took the stage, explaining how he first met Bruce Springsteen at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Hollywood in 1978. A random encounter led to an exchange of the artists' work, and a friendship was born between the Born on the Fourth of July author and Vietnam Veteran and the "Born in the U.S.A." musician. Kovic introduced Springsteen's musical tribute, which began with the Rob Mathes All-Star band performing "10th Avenue Freeze Out," followed by Grammy Award-winning musician John Mellencamp crooning "Born in the U.S.A." Next, was a medley of "My Father's House," "Glory Days" and "I'm on Fire" by multi-Grammy winners Ben Harper and Jennifer Nettles, accompanied by the Rob Mathes band. Grammy Award and Academy Award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge belted out "Born to Run," followed by Grammy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning singer Eddie Vedder's explosive rendition of "My City of Ruins." Finally, musical powerhouse Sting, with multiple Grammy, Golden Globe and Emmy Award wins to his name, rocked the house with an amazing performance of "The Rising," joined by The Joyce Garrett Choir and the rest of the performers for the evening's rousing conclusion.

THE 32ND 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 32nd consecutive year. Michael Stevens was a co-producer. The Honors telecast has been honored with six 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.

RATING: To Be Announced





  [december 2009]  
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