The Kennedy Center has announced the five performers to be feted at the upcoming 33rd edition of its honors: daytime TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey; two musical titans -- pop superstar Paul McCartney and country crooner Merle Haggard; and two Broadway talents -- composer-lyricist Jerry Herman and choreographer Bill T. Jones. McCartney accepted the honor in 2002 but when he opted out of attending the ceremony, Paul Simon was named instead.
The quintet will be feted Dec. 5 at the White House before a salute to their achievements in the performing arts at the Kennedy Center. The taped kudoscast will air on CBS on Dec. 28. The longtime holiday programming staple is a six-time Emmy Award-winner for outstanding variety special, including the last two years in a row.
The Kennedy Center Honors began in 1978, seven years after the living memorial to President Kennedy opened on the banks of the Potomac in the nation's capital. Since then, the kudos have taken on the aura of the country's highest tribute to artists.
Appropriately enough, Richard Rodgers – the first person to achieve the awards grand slam by winning all four big showbiz kudos (Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony) – was among the first five artists inducted into this hall of fame. (The others were opera pioneer Marian Anderson, dancer extraordinaire Fred Astaire, choreographer George Balanchine, and pianist Arthur Rubenstein.) Since then, there have been another 163 artists honored (usually five per year but occasionally six, such as two years ago when a team was feted). Among them have been just two other grand slam champs -- Helen Hayes (1981) and Mike Nichols (2003).
Image: Kennedy Center Honors logo. Credit: Kennedy Center.