“With their extraordinary talent, creativity and tenacity, the seven 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said.
The breadth of Hoffman’s roles “has made him one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of this or any other generation; David Letterman is one of the most influential personalities in the history of television,” Rubenstein said. Makarova, 71, who left her native Russia in 1970 and that year debuted in the title role of “Giselle” with the American Ballet Theatre, “has ignited the stages of the world’s greatest ballet companies and continues to pass the torch to the next generation of dancers.” The members of heavy-metal pioneer Led Zeppelin, who are all in their 60s, “transformed the sound of rock-and-roll with their lyricism and innovative song structures.”
And Guy, 76, a six-time Grammy winner, “has influenced virtually everyone who has picked up an electric guitar in the last half-century,” Rubenstein said.
In a phone interview, Guy said that upon hearing he’d been named an honoree: “My daughter brought it to me, and I think she’s joking, you know.”
He added: “I like sucking things in, so this is exciting for me. I’m very emotional. I’m probably going to sit there and keep a handkerchief right there. I don’t have a high school education, and it’s a long way from pickin’ cotton and pickin’ a guitar.”
Used to be, Guy said, that a bluesman hoped to play well enough so that a pretty girl liked him at the end of the night. “But even if she fell for you, you didn’t make enough to get a room,” he said, laughing.
“The guitar didn’t take you places until the British guys got a hold of it. That’s what opened the door for us,” he added, crediting the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, among others, for bringing the music international attention and exposure. He doesn’t want to call names, but he said that he hopes some of the old heads and the Brits might be onstage at the Honors.
Guy was reached on tour in New Brunswick, N.J., and if there is a theme for the Kennedy Center Honors this year, it perhaps is the notion of artists at work, plying their crafts at a point in their careers where they could rest on their laurels.
This extends to Kennedy Center Honors co-creator and American Film Institute founder George Stevens Jr., who is receiving an honorary Oscar on the same night as this year’s State Department dinner for honorees, hosted by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton — a day before the Dec. 2 Kennedy Center Honors gala that he and his son Michael are executive-producing.