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Category: Kennedy Center Honors

Is Oprah worthy of receiving Kennedy Center Honors?

September 8, 2010 | 10:41 pm

A battle has erupted in our forums over the Kennedy Center Honors' plan to bestow an award upon Oprah Winfrey on Dec. 5 (and aired by CBS on Dec. 28.)

According to the organization's website, the honor is "given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture." Granted, Oprah has had a profound impact on American culture, but in the performing arts?

Oprah winfrey news

Oprah's vitae as an actress is limited, although it does include an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for "The Color Purple."  Naysayers in our message boards assert that she's regarded chiefly as a TV talk show host, but a previous gabfest emcee earned this same honor (Johnny Carson) and Oprah often ballyhoos the performing arts on her TV show. Her detractors may also not be giving her sufficient credit for producing movies like "Beloved" and telefilms like "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Women of Brewster Place."

Below: a sampling of some forum comments. See more here.

Rockstitution: "I'd have taken Betty White over Oprah for the TV slot."

DS0816: "If Oprah Winfrey has to be on the list, than next year's must include Phil Donahue."

Seanflynn: "I admire Winfrey greatly, have no problem with lots of honors she might receive. She has been an amazing, vital voice for many years. I question this though. It is known for people who are involved in the creative arts and are known as performers and/or creators. But Carson also was a writer/performer/comedian/actor on his show -- Winfrey is an interviewer only. Her other creative endeavors as an actor and producer are laudible, but not remotely Kennedy Center honor worthy, or on the level of Carson's creative/performing work. I think this award for her is dubious."

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press

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Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney among Kennedy Center honorees

September 8, 2010 |  7:42 am

Kennedy Center Honors logo 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.

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