Grace Hightower



The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates 34 years of feting the best talent in the arts.
By Janet Donovan

Elmo at the Kennedy Center Honors. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

The Kennedy Center Honors is by far Washington’s most anticipated, glamorous, star-studded and celebrated event of the year in Washington D.C. This year, the awardees included Barbara Cook, singer/songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist/ composer Sonny Rollins, and actress Meryl Streep. But the actual awards ceremony was the culmination of a weekend filled with preceding events that included the presentation of the medallions to the honorees, which was held on Saturday at an elegant State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The star attraction was a reception at The White House hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.  In between were private parties and sightings around town.

The Sunday Honors Brunch, hosted by Liz and George Stevens, Jr., on Sunday is always the most intimate and thus highly coveted invite.  Medallion worthy George Stevens Jr., who created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff, co-wrote and produced this year’s event with Michael Stevens. Both are Emmy and Peabody award winners. Guests included Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Andrea Mitchell and Alan Greenspan, Debbie and John Dingell, Amb. Nancy Brinker, Nora Efron, Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, Buffy Cafritz, Ann and Vernon Jordan, Glenn Close, Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower, Chris Dodd, David Gregory, Senator John Kerry, Norman Minetta, Nancy and Paul Pelosi, and Lionel Ritchie.

A fascinating take away from the Oscar feeling brunch was Alan Alda’s dedication to science – all the doc stuff from his days with MASH wore off on him. “I helped start the center for communicating sciences at Stony Brook University and we train scientists to communicate with the public – vividly and with more presence and greater clarity.  I have always been interested in science and for 11 years did a science program on television.” Go Alda.

On the red carpet …. When honoree Sonny Rollins took your hand on the Kennedy Center Honors Red Carpet, he didn’t let go. His handshake was warm, enveloping and sincere; not the kind of feeling you would expect from such an accomplished artist. Rollins knew from a very early age –  seven actually – that he would be somebody … that’s a long time not to have it go to your head. The saxophonist and composer put it this way: “I don’t know, I just had a feeling, I knew that I would be prominent in the field of music.”

Another happy camper was honoree Neil Diamond who is recently engaged and delighted to have found his soul mate. As for his meteoric rise to fame since an early age, he took us back in time: “I wrote Red, Red Wine when I was nineteen. I was working in a haberdasher store in Long Island. There were no customers and I sat behind the counter and wrote the song in a couple of hours, so there you go. So that was the journey of the song.” Oh, and in case you’re interested, Elmo was happy to tell us that his bedtime was a little later that night.  “Elmo’s bedtime is usually eight thirty to nine,”he said, “and I am three and a half going on 52.”

As for the rest of celebs and head turners on the red carpet like Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, Lynda Carter, Sarah Jessica Parker and much more, be sure to pick up a copy of Washington Life’s next issue in February to read all about it in Hollywood on the Potomac.

Neil Diamond with fiancée Katie McNeil. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Yo-Yo Ma with wife Jill Hornor. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Honoree Barbara Cook. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Meryl Streep at the Kennedy Center Honors. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Honoree Sonny Rollins. (Photo by Scott Suchman.)

Grace Hightower