Kennedy Center Honors Celebrity Fundraising

Kennedy Center Honors Celebrity Fundraising

Tonight CBS will telecast the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors, a 90 minute video distillation that will seem every bit as long as the 3 hour live event held earlier this month. Video broadcast rights to the ceremony probably earn the Center as much as a middling college team gets for a third-rate football bowl game telecast. Frankly, a Bake Sale for the Arts would be more interesting to watch.

“It takes ingenuity to make the Kennedy Center Honors more mortifying with each passing year,” observed Frank Rich:

“Perhaps the Kennedy Center Honors should just be laughed off as Washington’s own philistine answer to Hollywood’s Golden Globes, and let it go at that. But in a country that honors culture so rarely, this annual presentation of lifetime achievement awards is by default a big deal. It’s the only national event celebrating the performing arts as distinct from show business.

Yet it has fallen so far in esteem even within the arts community that A-list performers are more likely to show up on the Honors’ various committee lists than on stage or even in the audience at the gala. When the Kennedy Center opened, the critic Ada Louise Huxtable described it as ‘a marble sarcophagus in which the art of architecture lies buried.’ Architecture is no longer alone.”

The artists are nominated by a ”Kennedy Center Honors Artists Committee” of 90-odd performers and entertainment magnates. That’s no committee, it’s a mailing list. The Kennedy Center Board of political appointees picks winners from that pool of nominees, which helps explain the increasing hype and mediocrity.

While it’s a sad night for the performing arts, the show is a boon to literature. Many disgusted viewers will turn off their TVs and read books instead.


“How do some federal VIPs get pricey Kennedy Center Honors tickets? Donations.” Paul Farhi, Washington Post


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here.  Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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