Kennedy Center Honors show taped for airing Christmas night – 1982

Desert Sun, Number 110, 10 December 1982

Kennedy Center Honors show taped for airing Christmas night

By MARY CAMPBELL Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Lillian Gish, Benny Goodman, Gene Kelly, Eugene Ormandy and George Abbott, recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, were in a rather unaccustomed seat Sunday night the audience listening while stars from Broadway to grand opera honored them. Betty Buckley, star of “Cats” on Broadway, sang “Memory” from that show, to honor them all and start a two-hour program in Kennedy Center’s Opera House. President and Mrs. Reagan attended. Seats, at $3OO, had been sold out for months, benefitting the Kennedy Center by $500,000, said Claudette Colbert. The show was taped by CBS-TV for showing on Christmas night.

1982 DC Ronald Reagan - Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)
1982 DC Ronald Reagan – Lillian Gish (Kennedy Center)

The five honorees had been presented their medallions Saturday night at a banquet in their honor at the State Department. Cary Grant, who was an honoree last year, read their official citations and Roger L. Stevens, Kennedy Center chairman, placed the medallions on broad ribbons around the necks of the recipients. Miss Buckley was introduced by master of ceremonies Walter Cronkite, who said, “A grateful nation honors five Americans whose career contributions to the performing arts have enriched our lives.” The audience also heard a recorded speech by Reagan, a briefer version of the one he gave at 6 p.m. in the Blast Room of the White House at a reception honoring the five. He called them “dreamers who made their dreams come true for the rest of us.” He went on, “The years they devoted to their crafts lifted our lives from the commonplace to share the sublime.” As pictures from George Abbott’s past were shown, director Harold Prince said, “Producer, director, actor, author, play doctor Mr. Abbott is 95 with only 120 shows to his name.” Then a quartet of actors who worked for Abbott on Broadway before their hair turned gray Eddie Albert, Van Johnson, Tom Bosley and Hal Lindon came on. They were soon joined by Jean Stapleton, in the uniform and cap she wore in “Damn Yankees,” and the men’s “You Gotta Have Heart” became a five-part “You Gotta Have George.” Bosley pointed out at the White House reception that this fifth year of the Kennedy Center Honors is the first in which one honoree made another a star. Abbott gave Gene Kelly his first starring role, in “Pal Joey.”

Lillian Gish Kennedy Center
Lillian Gish Kennedy Center

Eva Marie Saint narrated film clips from Lillian Gish’s career including harrowing shots of her on an ice floe where she had refused a stand-in. She said, “Lillian Gish was there at the very beginning of motion pictures. She has been a star from the first time she made films with D. W. Griffith in 1912. Her dreams are lofty, her spirit intact.” Metropolitan Opera soprano Leona Mitchell sang Mimi’s act one aria from “La Boheme.’’ Miss Gish starred as Mimi in the silent film “La Boheme.”

John Gilbert and Lillian Gish (La Boheme)5

Andre Previn spoke of Benny Goodman’s famous 1938 first jazz concert in Carnegie Hall and Lionel Hampton spoke of his being the first person in jazz to integrate his group. The Benny Goodman Quartet, from 1936 when he hired Hampton and pianist Teddy Wilson, was himself, those two and the late drummer Gene Krupa. Peggy Lee, who said Goodman wouldn’t let her resign when both she and the critics thought she should, sang “Where or When” and “Do Right,” proving that Goodman had been right. “Simply one of the greatest conductors of this century” was what Eugene Istomin called Eugene Ormandy. Istomin made his debut as a concert pianist under Ormandy’s baton, during Ormandy’s 44 years leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. Violinist Isaac Stern, one of Ormandy’s most frequently engaged guest soloists in Philadelphia, played the slow movement from Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 3, in G Major,” for the maestro. Yves Montand said of Gene Kelly, “He will always be our American in Paris, and much more. He is in people’s hearts everywhere, an American for the whole world.” Brief film clips showed Kelly dancing with Frank Sinatra and Leslie Caron, singing with Judy Garland and roller skating down a street.

MARY CAMPBELL Associated Press Writer – 1982

kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
kennedy-center-honorees george-abbott-lillian-gish-benny-goodman-gene kelly 01 12 1982
Desert Sun, 10 December 1982
Desert Sun, 10 December 1982
Lillian Gish - The LIFE Picture Collection 1982
Lillian Gish – The LIFE Picture Collection 1982

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