Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kennedy Center Honors 2012: Some Thoughts

These Honorees Will Fly Like a Led Zeppelin

On learning of this year's Kennedy Center Honorees, I am of a mixed mind.  After SIX recommendations for a total of 33 names, I finally got ONE.
ONE OUT OF 33.  That is a lousy record.

That one name is Dustin Hoffman (in my Third suggestion).  I suppose that after so many names that I've submitted, the odds would eventually turn in my favor.  I DO wish the Kennedy Center would listen to my ideas because I think they are a damned sight better than theirs. 

Let us go over the five (or seven, depending on how they count) Honorees.

  • Blues Guitarist Buddy Guy
  • The aforementioned Hoffman
  • Late night television host David Letterman
  • Prima ballerina Natalia Makarova
  • Rock band Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) . 

Let me go over that again.


This year's Kennedy Center Honors will for the first time include a rock BAND.

We're not talking songwriting partners such as Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend of The Who (which I always thought a dubious choice.  Sorry, but I don't think they are on the same level as Lerner & Lowe or Kander & Ebb, or even the non-Honoree Tim Rice).  No, this year they are throwing the entire BAND up there on that balcony. 

At the moment, it's still unsure whether they are going to honor Led Zeppelin en masse or John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant as individuals (given that John Bonham, the fourth Zeppelin member, died in 1980 and that the band officially ended on his death makes things only more perplexing.  Isn't it a rule that the honorees should be present and alive when honored?  If so, doesn't Bonham's death mean that 'Led Zeppelin' cannot be honored because in a way, it's dead?) .  It looks like Led Zeppelin is this year's Kennedy Center Honoree...and Plant, Page, and Jones are just there.

It could, with great difficulty, be accepted that Plant and Page, even Jones will be honored as individuals, but LED ZEPPELIN?


This isn't to take away from those who genuinely deserve praise (Guy, Hoffmann, and Makarova).  Each are legends worthy of honoring.  I won't even take away from the idea that Led Zeppelin as a band is brilliant.

However, these are suppose to be the Kennedy Center Honors, not the bloody Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  You honor bands in Cleveland, not the Kennedy Center.

This is a bad precedent.  One can only wonder for example, why didn't they honor The Miracles when they presented a Kennedy Center Honor to Smokey Robinson in 2006?  In 2009 the honor went to Bruce Springsteen, but are you telling me that the E Street Band (and people like Max Weinberg, Little Stevie Van Zandt and Clarence Clemons) are just The Boss' backing group?  When Paul McCartney was honored in 2010, they could have presented the honor to The Beatles, but perhaps the idea of saying, 'Kennedy Center Honoree Ringo Starr' was one even they couldn't fathom.

In short, it's absolute nonsense to honor a BAND.  You can make a case for individuals (as one did for Daltry and Townshend), but the idea to honor a whole BAND is insane, idiotic, and heading things in the wrong direction.

I joked that next year, they will honor Metallica or perhaps the two surviving members of the Beastie Boys, but knowing the Kennedy Center now, I wouldn't put it past them to do something just as nutty.  I've been criticized for thinking honoring Led Zeppelin is foolish: look at the album sales, they say.  All right, here's my response:  if we're going to give once-prestigious awards based on album sales, you will have Kennedy Center Honorees ABBA, Queen sans Freddie Mercury, and Madonna. 

That's right: Madonna.  Wonder if they'd show clips from Shanghai Surprise at her tribute.  

Coming in fast are Pink Floyd and Celine Dion.  This is becoming a nightmare.  

Now the big question is which band will subject the shrinking viewership to the Kennedy Center Honors telecast to their overblown rendition of Stairway to Heaven.  I keep seeing those dancing midgets from This Is Spinal Tap...

Stupidest damn decision to honor Led Zeppelin.  You can honor Page and Plant and/or Jones as individuals perhaps, but to honor a whole band really cheapens the entire idea of the Kennedy Center Honors. 

Not that THIS hasn't already made a mockery of what was once touted as upholding "a tradition of recognizing the lifelong accomplishments and extraordinary talents of our nations' most-prestigious artists.".  David Letterman hasn't been funny since Larry "Bud" Melman passed away. 

"David Letterman is one of the most influential personalities in the history of television, entertaining an entire generation of late-night viewers with his unconventional wit and charm"; thus spoke the official Kennedy Center website as to the reason behind his selection. 

Says I, "one of the most influential in the history of television"?  You mean he's up there with Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Johnny Carson?


He is not the New or Next Johnny Carson.  No One can be the New or Next Johnny Carson.  There was, is, and will always be ONE Johnny Carson.  All the others: Letterman, Leno, O'Brien, Kimmell, will be in Carson's shadow, and none will ever match his brilliance.

I don't exactly know for what exactly David Letterman is being honored for.  It can't be for his hosting of the 67th Annual Academy Awards (which was a disaster and one of the lowest non-Snow White moments in Oscar history until James Franco came along. Anne Hathaway wasn't spectacular, but she was trying desperately to compensate for Franco's lackadaisical manner, making things only worse not better).  If there were any justice, previous Kennedy Center Honoree Oprah Winfrey (perhaps the WORST choice in the Center's history) and Uma Thurman should appear...just to remind the world yet again of "Oprah...Uma...Oprah...Uma". 

Now THERE'S comedy gold. 

Let's be nice and throw in potential future Kennedy Center Honoree Tom Hanks recreating another "stupid dog trick" in front of the President and First Lady.  That ought to be a highlight to pass Bruce Springsteen and potential KCH Shirley Caesar singing tributes to Bob Dylan. 

Carson hosted the Oscars several times, and he was successful at it.  I think it was because he was able to poke fun at the stars without there being a sense of meanness to it.  When he made jokes about people, it was more in the style of good-natured ribbing, not a snarky almost petty tone that Letterman has.  Truth be told, I think he's remarkably mean-spirited, unpleasant at times, and let's not forget how he's "championed" female comics.

Let's leave aside for the moment Letterman's disastrous Oscar gig.  What else has he done to merit the Kennedy Center Honor (which he will no doubt mock on his own show)?  You have the Top Ten List and Stupid Pet Tricks, but really, what is so brilliant about this man? 

I'm not finding much sense in the naming of David Letterman as a Kennedy Center Honoree.  He might have been funny, but he hasn't been so in years. 

Personally, I'd prefer to see Calvert DeForest win one...even if he is dead.   He was certainly funnier than Letterman is now alive.  In fairness, neither are as funny as the idea that David Letterman and Led Zeppelin are Kennedy Center Honorees while such no-talents as Betty White, Peter O'Toole, Nancy Wilson, and/or Jose Carreras...aren't.            

1 comment:

  1. I've heard rumors that the "New Kids On the Block" are going to be honored next year. First a band, now a boy band! Oh well, seems that throwing away all credibility is the 'in thing' to do these days, ie Nobel gave Obama a Nobel Award before he bloody did anything!


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