Dolly Parton dressed in a dramatic white gown and teased beehive hairdo looked around at the guests at the White House reception, Sunday. “I’m honored to be here with all these people wearing all these fancy clothes,” she said.
Dolly Parton was among five entertainers honored last week by the Kennedy Center.
The occasion was a reception for the honorees before the 29th Annual Kennedy Center Honors performance and late night dinner. And although President Bush and the First Lady, the Cheneys and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took part, this evening was show biz before politics.
In addition to Parton, tribute was paid to Motown legend William “Smokey” Robinson, who gushed, “I’m so flattered to get this honor because it deals not only with craft but also with the impact you’ve had on humanity.”
His childhood pal and former honoree, Aretha Franklin, said “Smokey, who helped to make the Motown sound world famous, never let success change who he is.” A proud Berry Gordy, the founder of the Motown label, was there as well.
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who hosted the gala that will air on CBS on Dec. 26, said that honoree, London born composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, proved that “cats have more than nine lives.”
Director Steven Spielberg missed his friend, Bill Clinton, who was “doing his AIDS thing in southeast Asia.” But actor Tom Hanks read from “the book of Steven” going back to when he had premieres in his own home for his early films without stars.
Indian-born Zubin Mehta hugged Robinson, who hugged everyone. They’re from different worlds yet united by this high entertainment honor.
Kenny Rogers, dressed in black, came to participate in the tribute to Dolly. “All of us are three people: we’re who our audience thinks, who we think, and who we really are,” Rogers said. “The closer those three are, the longer we last. Dolly is all three, and more.”
Some Congressmen were eager to have photos taken with Parton. And others wanted a break from political patter for the evening. “I have no job,” Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) quipped when asked a political question. And even Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) wasn’t talking about her hoped-for committee chairmanship and her strained relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
It was a moving evening for all the honorees. Robinson and Webber wiped away the tears during their tributes. It was dramatic when the curtain rose on Mehta’s colleagues from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra who had traveled from Tel Aviv to serenade “the Mensch,” and when WWII military heroes and a Holocaust survivor paid tribute to Spielberg.