The applause will be shortened and President Bush’s remarks at the White House for the Kennedy Center Honorees (CBS, Dec. 26) will be drastically edited, but the segment in Tom Hanks’ tribute to Kennedy Center honoree Steven Spielberg will not be altered.
First, a little background: George Stevens Sr., father of the show’s producer, George Stevens Jr., who won directing Oscars for both “Giant” and “A Place in the Sun,” was also nominated for “Diary of Anne Frank,” a heartbreaking film of WWII. From 1944-1946, Stevens headed a combat motion picture unit, and in addition to filming the Normandy landings, he and his unit filmed the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp, Dachau. For thisStevens was awarded the Legion of Merit. In the Kennedy Center Honors special, Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schnidler’s List” are honored by the stage appearance of and deafening applause for five WWII veterans and Renee Firestone, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. Her mother was killed there; her baby sister was a victim of the medical experiment program in the camp. (Firestone interviewed that doctor, then 92. still practicing medicine in Berlin, for Spielberg’s Oscar-winning docu, “The Last Day”). Firestone’s father died in Dachau. (Stevens Jr. told me he and his father visited Dachau during “Anne Frank.”)
In the TV show’s tribute, Firestone says, “”After ‘Schindler’s List’, Steven Spielberg created the Shoah Foundation, which has recorded many thousands of testimonies (of the Holocaust). These stories would never have been heard, but because of your wisdom, caring and generosity, Steven, they will now be remembered for generations to come.” She met President Bush and wife Laura, Sunday at the White House reception preceding the Kennedy Center Honors show, “I thanked him for his kindness and support of Israel,” she told me on her return home to Los Angeles where she is a guest speaker for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
On a lighter note, one of President Bush’s welcoming remarks to the Honorees in the East Room of the White House was this description of Dolly Parton: “She has such a thin waist — because nothing grows in the shade.” He got a big laugh.