Kennedy Center Honors 2010:Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, Oprah Winfrey honored

Receiving this year's Kennedy Center Honors are television host Oprah Winfrey, musicians Paul McCartney and Merle Haggard, dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones and lyricist Jerry Herman.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 4:00 PM

The Kennedy Center Honors aired on television last night but Hank Steuver found something lacking:

Also, to the surprise of no one, the show has been sanitized for our mainstream protection. Gone are political comments playwright Edward Albee made about revolutionaries and the liberal, blue-state joie de vivre that he says separates excellent artistry from cultural mediocrity. (Albee introduced the portion of the show honoring provocative choreographer Jones.) Gone too is a crack that comedian Chris Rock made during the tribute to Winfrey about Sarah Palin being able to read a book, which elicited some boos.

Or something like that. You would literally have had to have been there (or read about it in The Washington Post's coverage) to know what really happened.

This echoes a similar edit by PBS this year, when Mark Twain Prize recipient Tina Fey's saucier remarks (again referencing Palin) never made it to the broadcast, an ironic twist, because sauciness is exactly what gets a person a Mark Twain Prize.

I say let these people - honorees, performers, guests - dig their own holes and electrify these snoozy shows, speaking freely about whatever they think is funny or interesting. Then let the masses brutally inform them otherwise the next day. Getting outraged beats drifting off.

Robin Givhanprofiles Kennedy Center honoree Oprah Winfrey:

Winfrey has become our national confessor, our friendly, neighborhood billionaire philanthropist, the wizard who sprinkles magical dust over every author, entrepreneur, do-gooder and politician within her orbit. What Winfrey doesn't do is as powerful a statement as what she does. How dare she not interview Sarah Palin! The culture, it seems, has declared ownership of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Winfrey begs to differ - but only to a point. "I feel it's very much my show in that every decision you see on the show has come from that desk," she says, gesturing toward the pale green, bean-shaped table in her office. "The part that belongs to the culture is every single person who has watched . . . who has found or discovered a piece of light from it. Flecks of light, that's what I call it."

Profiles of all the Kennedy Center honorees and full coverage of the awards here.

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