A Starry-Eyed Salute

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 3, 2007

Diana Ross bobbed her lion mane to Vanessa Williams's serenade, Steve Martin hammed it up in response to Steve Carell's goading, Martin Scorsese furrowed his brow when Francis Ford Coppola said, " 'GoodFellas' is much better than 'The Godfather,' " Leon Fleisher graciously thanked Yo-Yo Ma for his kind words, and Brian Wilson looked a little out of it.

In other words, everyone behaved exactly as you would expect them to during last night's Kennedy Center Honors tribute.

The 30-year-old gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House, which culminated a weekend of activities saluting this year's fab five, is not about flouting expectations, after all, but about celebrating the obvious, the quintessential, the archetypes of each honoree's lifetime of stardom -- nixing the negative or the PG-13.

And so it was that a gold-sequins-clad Caroline Kennedy opened the evening by praising:

A film-loving boy from the "mean streets of Little Italy" (Scorsese).

A "wild and crazy" dirty rotten scoundrel (Martin).

A Motown beauty who found no mountain "high enough" (Ross).

A "piano prodigy who . . . embraced adversity" (Fleisher).

And a "Beach Boy troubadour [who] showed that rock-and-roll is indeed fun, fun, fun" (Fleisher again. No -- just kidding! It's Brian Wilson. You expected a surprise?).

Oh, and the president and first lady were there, too.

The last acts of these things -- other events included a dinner Saturday at the State Department and a White House reception yesterday afternoon -- are always such a shebang, such a to-do, let's just start there, shall we?

Wilson got the final set of Honors, a tribute kicked off by a fuzzy-as-ever Art Garfunkel, who described hearing Wilson's music for the first time: "It was this unique, crazy creation: a mix of rock-and-roll and heartfelt prayer."

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