Kennedy Honors will fete fab five

Liz, Paul, Chita & two Jims to receive lifetime kudos

WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, James Earl Jones, James Levine and Chita Rivera have been selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors this year, the 25th anniversary of the program.

The five will receive their lifetime achievement honors Dec. 8 at a black-tie gala performance typically attended by the U.S. president and packed with official Washingtonians and other luminaries from showbiz, government and industry. It again will be broadcast on CBS later in the month.

George Stevens Jr., who created the honors in 1978 with the late producer Nick Vanoff, will again co-produce with Don Mischer.

It is perhaps fitting that actress Taylor has been tapped to receive the honor in the event’s 25th anni since her absence from the recipients’ roster has raised eyebrows for years. Recipients are selected by the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee with input from Stevens.

Ready to rock

McCartney also brings the Beatles — and indeed, the entire genre of British rock ‘n’ roll bands — to the honors for the first time. Previous rock ‘n’ roll recipients have been Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and B.B. King.

Jones, possessing perhaps the most recognizable voice in showbiz, will be feted for the imposing force he brings to his acting and voiceover gigs.

Levine has enjoyed three decades with the Metropolitan Opera, conducting more than 2,000 performances of 75 different operas since his Met debut.

Rivera, who created the role of Anita in “West Side Story” and stars this winter in a Broadway revival of “Nine,” will be celebrated for her exciting performances and sheer durability.

Kennedy Center chairman James A. Johnson said in a released statement regarding the year’s choices: “For the unique and extremely valuable contributions they have made to the cultural life of our nation, we honor an actor whose extraordinary range and power have made him an American institution, a brilliant musician who for three decades has led one of the world’s foremost opera companies to unsurpassed excellence, one of the most prolific and influential songwriters of our era, a musical theater star of the highest magnitude, and a luminous film actress who for nearly 60 years has been a Hollywood icon treasured by millions throughout the world.”

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