( Reuter.com ) Washington's elite hosted an eclectic mix of entertainers ranging from multiple-Oscar winner Tom Hanks to pop singer Jessica Simpson at the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday, paying tribute to five superstars for their lifetime contributions to the arts and American culture.
President Bush and his wife, Laura, led a mainly political audience as they stoically watched a gala performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to honor movie mogul Steven Spielberg, country singer Dolly Parton, musical theater composer and stage producer Andrew Lloyd Webber, conductor Zubin Mehta and singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson.
Parton looked surprised and thrilled when country singer Kenny Rogers strutted on stage to perform their hit song "Islands In a Stream" with Carrie Underwood as the Tennessee native watched from the presidential box.
Two of Spielberg's leading men -- Hanks from "Saving Private Ryan" and Liam Neeson from "Schindler's List" -- honored him for his contributions to the historical record of some of the most important events of the 20th century, rather than for his blockbuster hits such as "Jaws," "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Hanks invited World War II veterans and a Holocaust survivor to the stage to thank Spielberg for his films. Harold Baumgarten, a veteran of the exact spot in the Normandy D-Day invasion portrayed in "Saving Private Ryan," praised Spielberg for "showing it exactly as it happened."
Mehta, the first Indian to receive the Kennedy Center honors and now music director of the New York Philharmonic, was honored by violinist Pinchas Zukerman.
The show will be broadcast on the CBS television network on December 26.