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Showbiz shone in Washington this weekend as the 29th Annual Kennedy Center Honors came to town from around the world. The CBS special will air Dec.26 but the live celebration began Saturday night at the State Department black tie, exclusive dinner where the five honorees actually received their ornate, medals fashioned around their necks.

Before the dinner, honorees and guests mingled mixing politics and showbiz glitz in the historic Benjamin Franklin Room boasting paintings of our country’s forefathers, their living room furnishings, gorgeous export China and other American antiques including Thomas Jefferson’s tall desk (over which he worked standing up because of a bad back). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed us. She had arrived only the night before from the grueling global trip with President Bush. She looked stunning. She opened the medal presentations by admitting “This is one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman introduced some past Kennedy Center Honors on hand and then gave the program over to Natasha Richardson to bring on personal remembrances of the five honorees: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Zubin Mehta, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, and Steven Spielberg. When Michael Kaiser placed the medal about the ample Dolly Parton, she laughingly exhaled, “I think he’s enjoying it too much.”