ENTERTAINMENT

Kennedy Center Honors back once more, Biden attends

Dec 5, 2021, 9:07 PM
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to guests and Kennedy Center Honorees in the East Room at the White...
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to guests and Kennedy Center Honorees in the East Room at the White House on December 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Kennedy Center Honors returned to tradition this year with a real-life gala Sunday night and the presence of the president for the first time since 2016.

The lifetime achievement awards for artistic excellence were presented to Motown Records creator Berry Gordy, “Saturday Night Live” mastermind Lorne Michaels, actress-singer Bette Midler, opera singer Justino Diaz and folk music legend Joni Mitchell.

This year’s event at the Kennedy Center’s main opera house represents a return to political normalcy, with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden attending.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped the show the first three years he was in office after several of the artists honored in 2017, his first year in office, threatened to boycott a White House reception if he participated. Last year, the pandemic forced a delay and major changes to the program.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden drew a sustained standing ovation when they entered the presidential box at the opera house. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed the national anthem and encouraged the audience to sing the final lines together.

The theater was packed to capacity and there were no social distancing restrictions, but vaccinations and recent negative COVID tests were required for all who attended.

The tributes featured testimonials and performances that were kept secret from the honorees. Mitchell’s tribute featured performances of her songs by Nora Jones, Brandi Carlile, Ellie Goulding and Brittany Howard. Diaz was honored with a performance from the opera “Carmen” and a song from his two daughters, Katya and Natascia.

For Michaels, organizers put together three “Weekend Update” segments onstage with multiple generations of mock news anchors — Kevin Nealon, Seth Myers and Amy Poehler, and the current duo of Michel Che and Colin Jost. Che joked that Biden would be asleep before the end of the show and Poehler poked at the Toronto-born Michaels by proclaiming that Joni Mitchell had been declared “the best Canadian of all time.”

Prior to the Kennedy Center event, Biden revived another tradition that had gone dormant under Trump and held a White House reception for the honorees.

“We welcome everyone back,” he told a crowd of about 150 seated in the East Room, decked out with Christmas trees and wreaths. Guests included Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Caroline Kennedy, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chita Rivera, Steve Martin and Herbie Hancock.

“Our nation is stronger, more dynamic and more vibrant because of you,” Biden told the honorees.

Biden praised the work of the artists, their “sixth sense” that helps them create and move so many people, saying: “I don’t think you fully appreciate what you do for so many people.”

He spoke of Diaz’s “sound of soul,” Gordy’s creation of “one of the most iconic businesses” in American history with Motown Records. With Michaels, he joked: “Finally, it’s my turn to say something about him,” poking fun at Michaels’ SNL show, which routinely mocks presidents, including the current commander in chief.

“You make me laugh at myself a lot,” Biden said, then went on to say Michaels was auditioning actors right now to play him next on SNL. Biden asked Steve Martin to stand as an example of the type of talent Michaels has cultivated over the past decades.

Martin paused and asked the president, “Do you want me to play you?” The crowd erupted in laughter.

Biden then professed his admiration for both Mitchell and Midler, telling Midler that “people will never forget how you make them feel. That’s your gift, it’s incredible.”

And lastly: “Joni. Your words and melodies touch the deepest parts of our soul,” Biden said.

Last year, the pandemic forced organizers to bump the annual December ceremony back to May 2021. Performance tributes to the artists were filmed over several nights and at multiple locations on campus.

This year’s main COVID-related modification was shifting the annual Saturday ceremony, where honorees receive their medallions on rainbow-colored ribbons, to the Library of Congress instead of the State Department.

Sunday’s ceremony, which will be broadcast Dec. 22 by CBS, is the centerpiece of the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary of cultural programming. The center opened in 1971.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Entertainment

Kirstie Alley enters the Celebrity Big Brother house at Elstree Studios on August 16, 2018 in Boreh...
Associated Press

Kirstie Alley, Emmy-winning ‘Cheers’ star, dies at 71

Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner who starred in the 1980s sitcom “Cheers” and the hit film “Look Who’s Talking,” has died. She was 71.
2 days ago
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 07: Co-host Dolly Parton speaks onstage during the 57th Academy of Countr...
Eliza Pace

Dolly Parton joins Tiktok: ‘Better late than never!’

Dolly Parton has officially joined Tiktok.
2 days ago
FILE: In this photo illustration, A Ticketmaster ticket is shown on a cellphone on November 18, 202...
Ramishah Maruf, CNN

More than two dozen Taylor Swift fans sue Ticketmaster

More than two dozen Taylor Swift fans are suing Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. for "unlawful conduct" in the pop star's chaotic tour sale.
2 days ago
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Sesame Street cast member and film subject Bob McGrath attends a ...
Associated Press

Bob McGrath, ‘Sesame Street’ legend, dies at 90

Actor, musician and children’s author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children’s show “Sesame Street,” Bob McGrath, has died at the age of 90.
3 days ago
Noodle, the pug, is held....
Zoe Sottile, CNN

Noodle, the TikTok-famous ‘bones or no bones’ pug, has died

(CNN) — Noodle, the geriatric pug who captured hearts across the internet for his “bones or no bones” ritual, has died at age 14, his owner says. Jonathan Graziano, Noodle’s owner, announced that his beloved dog died on Friday, in a tearful update posted to his TikTok and Instagram. “This is incredibly sad, it’s incredibly […]
4 days ago
Jason David Frank's cause of death is revealed by his wife. Jason David Frank is pictured here in N...
Lisa Respers France, CNN

Jason David Frank’s cause of death revealed by his wife

Jason David Frank's wife has confirmed that the "Power Rangers" star's death was a result of suicide.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Kennedy Center Honors back once more, Biden attends