WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony was held Sunday in Washington, D.C.
The event featured multiple tributes to former President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday at the age of 94. The night kicked off with an extended standing ovation in Bush’s memory at the request of hostess Gloria Estefan.
“I think it’s appropriate to recognize the passing of a wonderful man who dedicated his life to service and who graciously attended this event many times during his administration, laughing, applauding, singing along and even shedding a tear from right up there in the presidential box,” said Estefan, who recalled being invited to the White House and how Bush “literally spent 45 minutes patiently talking to my eight-year-old son” about how the government worked.
Within days of that White House visit, Estefan’s tour bus was in a serious accident that left her nearly paralyzed and President Bush called her in the hospital, she said.
For the second straight year, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump declined an invitation to the awards. They returned to Washington before dawn Sunday from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
This year’s honorees for lifetime achievements in the arts were Cher, composer Philip Glass, country music legend Reba McEntire and jazz icon Wayne Shorter. An unprecedented special award went to the co-creators of “Hamilton” for their genre-bending musical.
McEntire was introduced by music star Kelly Clarkson, who performed McEntire’s hit song “Fancy.”
“Sometimes when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out,” Clarkson told McEntire, “but my friendship with you became one of the highlights of my life.”
Shorter was hailed by the Kennedy Center for a six-decade career that included collaborations with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.
Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz, described Shorter’s music in celestial terms.
“His sound holds a special place in the galaxy,” Moran said. “I can safely say that somewhere in the galaxy right now, a band is playing one of his pieces.”
Glass received his tribute from a fellow Kennedy Center Honors recipient: singer-songwriter Paul Simon.
“He can rightfully be described as one of our greatest modern composers,” Simon said.
Simon praised Glass for his eclectic body of work, “never settling into one particular style, always developing and exploring.”
This year’s event contained a break from tradition by honoring an actual contemporary work of art — the blockbuster musical “Hamilton” — in addition to lifetime achievement awards for late-career artists. Writer and actor Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director Alex Lacamoire were honored as “trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.”
Comedian Whoopi Goldberg kicked off a tribute to Cher in a flowing sparkly gown that she joked came from the pop music icon’s closet.
“She is the true original,” Goldberg said. “She not only marched to the beat of her own drum — honey, she is a one-woman band!”
The evening ended with Cyndi Lauper, a longtime friend of Cher’s, performing “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
The Honors tribute performers are always kept secret from the recipients, and this was no exception. When Lauper appeared, Cher yelled from her seat, “You told me you were going to Los Angeles!”
Lauper shrugged onstage and said, “I lied.”
You can watch the full ceremony at 8 p.m. on December 26 here on CBS2.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)