Times Staff Writer

Comedy queen Lucille Ball is delighted to be among the six recipients of the 1986 Kennedy Center Honors, which were announced Monday. But the 75-year-old actress was too busy filming her television series to talk about it.

“It really is a highlight of my career and means so much to me,” Ball said in a statement released by a spokeswoman at Warner Hollywood Studio, where Ball was shooting “Life With Lucy,” a situation comedy starring Lucy as a widow living with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Other honorees who will be feted at the White House and the Kennedy Center in December include musician Ray Charles, the acting team of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and choreographer Antony Tudor.

Always one of the most glittering celebrations in social Washington, the gala honoring the stars raises money for the Kennedy Center and will be taped for a later broadcast on CBS.

Ball won four Emmy awards as best comedienne in her wacky television series “I Love Lucy,” which she began with husband Desi Arnaz in 1951. In “A Biographical Dictionary of Film,” David Thomson writes that “no one has so completely outflanked the industry. . . . It is likely that most of us have seen more of Lucille Ball than of any other actor or actress.”


For the 55-year-old Charles, the honor joins a shelf already crowded with 10 Grammys and two Emmys, won despite the loss of his sight at age 6, due to glaucoma. Charles learned to read and write music in Braille and broke the barriers between black and white pop, mixing soul, gospel, country, jazz, blues and pop into a style all his own.

Tudor, 77, who is credited with shaping the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, said winning the honor “wasn’t something so terribly unexpected. But if it had happened 10 years ago I would have fainted dead away.”

Tandy, 77, and Cronyn, 75, are the only married couple ever to receive the honors, which were initiated in 1978 and have gone to such superstars as Fred Astaire, James Cagney, Cary Grant, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. Tandy and Cronyn made a hit on Broadway in 1951 in the two-character comedy “The Fourposter” and again later in “The Gin Game.” They are both Tony award winners.

Menuhin, 70, launched his career on an Oakland, Calif., stage at age 7, playing Beriot’s “Scene de Ballet,” and was instantly labeled a child prodigy. He debuted at Carnegie Hall with the New York symphony at age 10 and at 12 began a distinguished international career with the Berlin Symphony.

The honors last year went to Hope, actress Irene Dunne, dancer Merce Cunningham, singer Beverly Sills and the musical composing team of Frederick Loewe and the late Alan Jay Lerner.