Kennedy Center Honors Recipients for 2012 Announced

Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Led Zeppelin, and Buddy Guy are among the artists who’ll be honored at the December gala.

By: Sophie Gilbert

This morning, the Kennedy Center announced its list of recognized artists for the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. The December 2 gala will pay tribute to blues musician Buddy Guy, actor Dustin Hoffman, late-night host David Letterman, dancer Natalia Makarova, and British rock band Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones will receive the honors in person).

In a statement, Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein praised the honorees and their “extraordinary talent, creativity, and tenacity,” calling Guy a “titan of the blues” and Hoffman “one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of this or any other generation.”

The artists will be received by President Obama and the First Lady at the annual gala performance at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, December 2. Last year’s show was nominated for several Emmy Awards and will go head-to-head with the Academy Awards and the Tonys at this Sunday’s ceremony. The Honors are always a huge event for the Kennedy Center, which charges as much as $5,000 for tickets. In 2010, the New York Times reported on the selection process for the awards, which it described as “informal”—recommendations are drawn from around 100 artists and narrowed down to a shortlist by producer George Stevens Jr., KenCen president Michael Kaiser, and Rubenstein.

The ceremony has also drawn criticism in the past for honoring big-name television stars such as Oprah Winfrey and Letterman, and was described as “Washington’s own philistine answer to Hollywood’s Golden Globes” by columnist Frank Rich in 1995.

In typically humble responses to the New York TimesArtsBeat blog, Guy and Letterman both professed their astonishment at being nominated this year, with Letterman saying the decision must have been a “mix-up.”

The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS in a two-hour special December 26.

Which performers would you like to see recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors? Let us know in the comments.