At Kennedy Center Honors, an Ovation for Paul Pelosi

He attends honors for George Clooney, Gladys Knight, U2, Amy Grant, and Tania León
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 5, 2022 6:29 AM CST
Clooney, U2 Among Kennedy Center Honorees
George Clooney attends the Kennedy Center honorees reception at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks.” Ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Matt Damon playfully teased his friend George Clooney, and Sheryl Crow delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” to Amy Grant during Sunday's Kennedy Center Honors. Knight, Clooney, Grant, León, and U2 were all celebrated at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which annually honors a select group of people for their artistic influences on American culture. President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their respective spouses were in attendance, as were members of the president's Cabinet and Congress.

One audience member from the political world—Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—drew some attention. He is recovering from a brutal attack in the Pelosis’ San Francisco home in October. The couple received a standing ovation from the crowd. Normally performers like U2 or Knight would be headlining such a show, but during the Kennedy Center event the honorees sit in the balcony and watch as their peers laud them and perform their works. Some highlights, per the AP:

  • Clooney: Damon took the funny road, joking about how Clooney once stole then-President Bill Clinton's stationery and wrote notes to fellow actors on it. Don Cheadle highlighted Clooney's philanthropic work. But it was Nick Clooney, his father, who probably had the strongest praise, telling the crowd and his son, sitting in the balcony between León and U2's Bono, "George's best and most important work is still ahead of him."
  • Knight: Standing on a stage lit by a massive sign reading “Gladys," LaBelle called Knight her “everything,” saying they had been friends for six decades and had seen each other through laughter and tears. "We do everything together,” LaBelle said. "I am honored to honor you tonight."
  • León: Five ballet dancers took to the stage to honor composer and conductor León, who left Cuba as a refugee in 1967; her passport was stamped “Cancelado" when she left the country. The performers were from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which León helped found when she eventually made her way to New York City.
  • Grant: Singer Crow talked about Grant's influence on her when she was a young college student. “Amy also taught me that it was possible to be funny, irreverent, and Christian all at the same,” said Crow.
  • U2: Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder sang U2's “Elevation” and “One." Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen brought his alter ego Borat to the stage as part of the U2 tribute, pretending to mistake Biden for former President Trump. Singers Brandi Carlile, Hozier, and Jamala—from the US, Ireland, and Ukraine, respectively—closed out the show with an emotional version of “Walk On."
(Read more Kennedy Center Honors stories.)

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