President Bush welcomed the five artists who received the 1990 Kennedy Center honors Sunday, saying their work underscores the “crucial role” art plays in U.S. society.
At a star-studded black tie reception at the White House, Bush honored jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, actress Katharine Hepburn, composer Jule Styne, director Billy Wilder and opera singer Rise Stevens.
The President paid personal tribute to each award winner, describing Gillespie as a “magician of the musical form,” and remembering Hepburn for her originality.
The awards highlight the “crucial role that art must play in the fabric of our society,” he said.
After his brief remarks, guests circulated at a cocktail party before leaving for a gala at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Bush, meanwhile, left for a five-nation trip to Latin America.
Hepburn, dressed in black slacks and a black turtleneck, was swamped with people seeking to have their picture taken. “I’m supposed to be adorable,” she said.
Asked about the 1990 Kennedy Center honor, she said, “I don’t think you have words to express how I feel.”
Stevens said she was “very excited” to be at the White House. Receiving the award was “a most beautiful surprise,” she said.
Once at the Kennedy Center, the five received stage tributes from--among others--actors Bill Cosby, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and opera singer Marilyn Horne during a show taped for television broadcast Dec. 28.
The show, hosted by television newsman Walter Cronkite, included film clips of the lives and achievements of the award recipients.