Excitement — and a few tears — on the Kennedy Center Honors red carpet

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Excitement — and a few tears — on the Kennedy Center Honors red carpet.

Kennedy Center honorees gather for State Department dinner with John Kerry…but Obama will skip the annual performance for rare Oval Office address on terrorism The State Department was filled with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars Saturday night, as celebrities streamed into Washington D.C. for the Kennedy Center Honors dinner. As the tribute to Lucas began at Sunday night’s gala honoring him and four others for contributing to American culture through the arts, the crowd was asked to welcome Carrie Fisher.WASHINGTON – Less than two weeks before the release of the new “Star Wars” movie, George Lucas is about to receive the nation’s highest award for achievement in the arts. This year’s honorees are singer and songwriter Carole King, Star Wars director George Lucas, Boston Symphony conductor Saiji Ozawa, and actresses Rita Moreno and Cicely Tyson.

The parade of glitterati, including VIP guests, presenters and honorees themselves started — as it always does — with “Wonder Woman” actress and Potomac resident Lynda Carter. Carter’s impressive attendance record (somewhere between 18 and 25, she figures) and punctual arrivals make her the annual event’s human starting bell. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the weekend, which brought out the likes of Scandal actress Kerry Washington, legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin and comedian Stephen Colbert.

Lucas created the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movie franchises, ushering in the age of the Hollywood blockbuster, and he broke barriers with his use of special effects and sound. She’s radiant in a black sequin and taffeta Oscar de la Renta gown, and optimistic about the show, which for the first time in 37 years has a new producer.

The president was still expected to attend a White House reception with the honorees at 5pm, three hours before his speech will air live on broadcast television. Lucas also created the “Indiana Jones” franchise, directed by Spielberg, and his special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, had a part in seven of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. “He’s a pathfinder and a pioneer like Edison and Bell and Tesla and Jobs,” Spielberg said. “George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ absolutely changed films forever.” “The Force Awakens,” the seventh movie in the franchise and the first made without Lucas’ involvement as director, producer or writer, opens Dec. 18 and is expected to be one of the highest-grossing films in history. As the crowd of Washington power brokers Hollywood celebrities stood and applauded, Lucas waved from a balcony, wearing the honorees’ signature rainbow-colored garland. Moreno, a native of Puerto Rico who started dancing at age 9, became the first Latina to win an Academy Award when she was honored for her performance as Anita in “West Side Story.” She’s one of a handful of artists to win an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony, and Obama said she pushed back against Hollywood typecasting.

She’s thrilled, and a bit teary-eyed, about triple-threat Rita Moreno‘s selection for the Honors, which has been criticized for not featuring Latino artists. “We need to be recognized and it’s about time,” Perez says. “Now that it’s here, it’s a night to rejoice.” In addition to Moreno, honorees included actress Cicely Tyson, singer-songwriter Carole King, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and “Star Wars” creator George Lucas. Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Ozawa has served as guest conductor with the CSO and has collaborated on several albums with the orchestra.

Tyson, a longtime star of stage and screen, has said the honor validated her decision to turn down many roles as she tried to find meaningful work as a black woman. King’s the first honoree to greet the press. (If their famous faces don’t give them away, you can always spot them by that special rainbow-striped bling adorning their necks — those are the medals handed out earlier by the president himself.) “This is very special,” the “Tapestry” crooner says. “It was particularly meaningful to me to see the president took the time to spend time with the five of us considering all he has going on today.” Not all the stars are feeling chatty: Director Steven Spielberg was seen but not heard from, and wait — that was singer Miranda Lambert in a pale-blue strapless number, strolling by, and we didn’t even get to ask her about her recent breakup with fellow country star Blake Shelton. President Barack Obama was a late arrival to the event after delivering a rare televised address in which he said America would overcome the threat posed by Islamic State militants.

At age 90, she’s currently starring on Broadway alongside James Earl Jones in “The Gin Game.” Ozawa, who was born in China to Japanese parents, began conducting as a teenager in Japan after World War II. King was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame nearly 30 years ago for her broad influence on pop music, which helped shape the sounds of the 1960s and 70s. The KenCen Honors are “national,” he explains, unlike certain “business-oriented awards” that shall remain nameless (rhymes with Schmoscars, perhaps?).

Tributes to Moreno came from her “Jane the Virgin” co-star, Gina Rodriguez, and Rosie Perez, who sang “Fever” with the overzealous Animal of “The Muppets” on drums — a performance Moreno originated, winning an Emmy. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and soprano Renee Fleming paid tribute to him during Sunday’s honors, which also included a performance by past honoree Yo-Yo Ma. And do anything.” Stars such as Perez, Gina Rodriguez, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington, all in attendance, are perhaps themselves examples of Tyson and Moreno’s hard work paying off. Note: Chicagoans can get a glimpse into the career of Carole King via “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” playing at the Oriental Theatre, through Feb. 21, 2106.

Franklin cops to feeling the pressure of singing for King, who producer Clive Davis said trembled with excitement the night before when she learned Franklin would be in on the tribute.

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