George Stevens Jr. to End 37-Year Run as Kennedy Center Honors Producer

George Stevens Jr. End 37-Year Run
Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — George Stevens Jr. had a surprise for the crowd at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony on Sunday: This year’s event will mark has last as producer of the glitzy annual tribute to performing arts legends.

Stevens created the annual KenCen Honors, an event that has become a year-end TV staple as a CBS special and a prestigious kudo for actors, musicians, dancers and other performing arts notables. It’s also the major annual fundraiser for the Kennedy Center.

Stevens spoke to the crowd after the intermission at the gala feting Tom Hanks, Al Green, Sting, Lily Tomlin and dancer Patricia McBride. Stephen Colbert, who is in line to take over CBS’ “The Late Show” from David Letterman next year, served as host.

Stevens, 82, said he’d been told by Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein that the Honors needed a new producer.

Stevens has produced the event and CBS telecast since its inception in 1978. His son Michael has worked alongside him as co-producer since 2008 but will also be ending his run after this year’s show. George Stevens praised the various artists who have worked on the committee to select each year’s honorees, and he praised his son’s contributions and those of their crew.

“Michael and I have had an amazing team,” Stevens said. “We’ve tried our best to invest this program with integrity.”

Stevens received a standing ovation from the crowd, which draws a who’s who of Washington and showbiz elite including President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

In a statement, the Kennedy Center noted that 2014 marked the final year in Stevens’ most recent contract with the org.

“The Kennedy Center is enormously grateful for the contributions George and his son Michael have made to the Honors over the years,” the org said. “The Kennedy Center Honors have grown in stature over the past 37 years to become the preeminent recognition of the performing arts in America. With tonight’s news, the Kennedy Center will begin a search for an Honors producer that will build upon this strong foundation in the years to come.”

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  1. James McDonald says:

    Thank you, George Stevens. for all that you have done for the Kennedy Center Honors. I enjoy watching it every year. It has class and elegance.

  2. Bobbi elliott says:

    What a shame that the classiest show on TV needs to be fixed in the boards eyes…it’s not broken

    We are experiencing such a dumbing down in America …I hope this isn’t another play for the kids

  3. Nationals Fan says:

    Why is this happening:

    1) David Rubenstein.

    2) The Kennedy Center’s staffed by a bunch of 20-somethings who know everything and believe that the event should be done in-house.

    3) One of life’s ironies — if someone does a superlative job at anything, that person makes it look easy, gets taken for granted, and is considered to be readily replaced. The Kennedy Center Honors is a year-long, full-time labor of love for the Stevens family. All the public sees is the stellar end result, not the countless hours of toil and effort that created the event.

    4) Like all artistic venues, the Kennedy Center has felt the pinch of rising costs and declining support and contributions. Eliminating an A-class, outside show runner will save money; sadly, the departure of Messrs. Steven will also put another nail in the coffin of the performing arts.

  4. Andrew Wald says:

    George created the KCH with the late Nick Vanoff, whose idea it really was, as he was a variety show producer…Steve Allen, Hollywood Palace….
    let us not forget that important part of history
    Andrew Wald

  5. Goodbyenoway says:

    This probably means that the honorees will be even worse than this year’s sorry bunch. Stevens was class. I bet they’ll go for something cheaper and grosser. Too bad.

  6. Ia says:

    Out with the old. This show has needed a new producer for decades. Looking forward to a modern show design and distribution in 2015, so more people can get in touch with this type of programming.

    • Nationals Fan says:

      “[T]his type of programming” is otherwise known as lifetime achievement awards. Kennedy Center Honors have always feted careers, not fads. The show’s honorees spend decades contributing to the arts (ok, I happen to believe that String is grossly overrated and more celebrity than artist, but I offer this as an aside). If you want to see Ariana Grande get an award, this program isn’t for you.

  7. La says:

    “Stevens said he’d been told by Kennedy Center chairman Michael Rubenstein that the Honors needed a new producer.”

    Well, I get the feeling that he and his son Michael were push out and did not leave on their terms. Such a shame. The both of them always make the KCH always wonderful and interesting by keeping it classy and remembering who they are honoring: The recipients. If the new producer is going come in and fluffy the whole show where the host gets all the attention (hopefully Colbert didn’t make it about himself when he hosted) and the recipients get less than stellar tributes, then I am out. Anyway, thank you George and Michael for doing amazing job year after year. You guys will be missed

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