Kennedy Center Honors De Niro, Boss
Brubeck, Bumbry, Mel Brooks round out list of those lauded at gala
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2009 6:27 AM CST
Harry Connick, Jr. walks the red carpet at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
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(Newser) – Last night’s Kennedy Center Honors brought together such unlikelies as Jack Black and Aretha Franklin to fete award winners Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro, and Bruce Springsteen in a three-hour variety show. Highlights of the night, attended by the president, vice president, and speaker of the house, from the Washington Post:

  • Jon Stewart summed up Springsteen in his introduction: “I believe that Bob Dylan and James Brown had a baby,” before Ben Harper, Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, John Mellencamp, and Sting—who got the crowd to its feet—all took turns belting out the Boss’s greatest hits.

  • Meryl Streep praised De Niro’s loyalty and friendship as much as his talent, while Martin Scorsese lauded his ability to see humanity in characters “who at first glance seemed inhuman.” Ben Stiller joked that, since he himself has won “two Teen Choice Awards,” that “the Kennedy Center Honor evens things out.”
  • Aretha Franklin referred to Bumbry, who went from a modest background in the Midwest to a career as one of the world’s great opera singers, as “Amazing Grace.”
  • Herbie Hancock acknowledged that “Dave Brubeck is the reason I don’t have a day job,” before covering a few of his jazz hits, joined by Brubeck’s four sons.
  • Brooks’ sequence resembled one of his films, from Martin Short riding a full-size plastic palomino and singing the Blazing Saddles theme to Jack Black playing the part of Robin Hood, complete with singing, from Men in Tights.
CBS will broadcast highlights on Dec. 29.

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