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President Obama presented the Kennedy Center honorees for 2012. The eclectic collection of art royalty included the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman and talk show host David Letterman.
The Kennedy Center announced this year’s honorees back in September. Aside from Led Zeppelin, Hoffman and Letterman, iconic guitarist Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova were also honored for their contributions to the performing arts.
As Reuters notes, there was plenty of joking at the White House East Room ceremony. “I worked with the speechwriters - there is no smooth transition from ballet to Led Zeppelin,” Obama said.
Fellow Oscar winner and Kennedy Center honoree Robert De Niro attended to talk about Hoffman. “Dustin Hoffman is a pain the ass...And he inspired me to be a bit of a pain in the ass too,” the actor joked.
Makarova defected from the Soviet Union to the West in 1970. In her honor, dancers performed pieces from Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, which she clearly enjoyed, reports The Washington Post.
Morgan Freeman said Guy “mastered the soul of gutbucket” blues, creating “a bridge from blues to rock ‘n’ roll.” Tracy Chapman, guitarist Jeff Beck and Bonnie Raitt performed in Guy’s honor.
Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey toasted Letterman, with Baldwin performing his own Top 10 list, “Top 10 Reasons David Letterman Is Getting a Kennedy Centers Honor.”
The Led Zeppelin portion was held back as the big finale, with several musicians toasting Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. Foo Fighters performed “Black Dog” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” while Kid Rock did “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Ramble On.” Lenny Kravitz performed “Whole Lotta Love” and the night ended with Heart's Ann Wilson performing “Stairway to Heaven.”
The ceremony airs on CBS on Dec. 26.