Star-Stricken Jessica Simpson Undoes the Honors for Dolly

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, December 22, 2006

Looking forward to the "Kennedy Center Honors" broadcast the day after Christmas just to see Jessica Simpson's redo performance of "9 to 5" during the tribute to Dolly Parton?

Ha! It's gone, show producer George Stevens announced yesterday.

CBS has agreed to expunge Simpson entirely from the broadcast; through the miracle of modern technology, it will appear as though she was never there.

The decision to yank the performance was made Wednesday night, a Simpson rep told The TV Column yesterday. Her client had been sent an advance copy of what would be broadcast and "she didn't like what she saw," the rep said.

Apparently it wasn't up to the standards of, say, that DirecTV ad, a Daisy Dukes homage in which Simpson, playing a waitress dressed in a Hooters-tight T-shirt and teensy shorts, saunters up to a table of guys, one of whom slaps her on her butt and is kicked out of his chair and onto the floor by Simpson, who, putting her stilettoed foot firmly on his throat, drawls, "Hey -- 253 straight days at the gym to get this body and you're not gonna watch me on DirecTV HD? You're just not gonna get the best picture."

We asked why Simpson hadn't rehearsed her song better before the night of the Honors; she appeared to be relying heavily on cards for the lyrics during the taping.

Simpson had learned the song and rehearsed but "was also shooting a movie which was consuming a lot of her time, 'Blonde Ambition,' " the rep said. She then tried out the Jessica-was-overcome-with-emotion- because-Dolly-has-always-been-an-idol line that's been the Simpson camp's standard response since her Kennedy Center meltdown.

Simpson, you might recall, kept one arm clenched around her chest while singing the Parton standard. As if that wasn't strange enough, after the song she said to the audience -- including Parton, Steven Spielberg, Smokey Robinson, Zubin Mehta, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the president of the United States -- "Dolly, you make me so nervous, I can't even sing the words right." Which seemed odd, considering she's been performing professionally for about 15 years.

Then, in one of those uncomfortable moments that make even live-to-tape TV so riveting, Simpson stood frozen onstage like a deer caught in headlights for a brief minute that played like an eternity, after which she bounced offstage like a jackrabbit. Really, she bounded -- it was very strange.

According to The Washington Post's Reliable Source column, Simpson was a mess backstage before she performed, crying during the tribute to Parton and pacing nervously while others performed their Parton songs. Those singers -- Carrie Underwood, Kenny Rogers, Alison Krauss and Shania Twain -- got through their songs without incident.

After the show, Stevens invited Simpson to re-shoot her song while the rest of the group had dinner out in the Kennedy Center lobby, and she did.

"After reviewing the tape of the 're-do' performance that was filmed after the live event, Jessica felt it was not what she had hoped to achieve," Stevens said in a statement. "As a result, she and the producers agreed that it would not be included in the CBS broadcast. We appreciate the time and energy Ms. Simpson put into this event and respect the high standards she has for herself and that of the Kennedy Center Honors."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company