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.”