*Donald Trump’s absence in the balcony of Sunday’s 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors did absolutely nothing to prevent the show from going on without a hitch.
Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes, the Roots, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and Misty Copeland joined an all-star lineup of talent on Sunday (Dec. 3) to salute this year’s recipients: singer-songwriter Gloria Estefan, TV legend Norman Lear, dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, rapper-actor LL Cool J, and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie.
It was a rare Kennedy Center Honors that did not feature the sitting U.S. president looking on from a prime perch in a box seat. As previously reported, the President and first lady Melania Trump backed out of the event back in August when three of the honorees said they would not attend the traditional White House reception that accompanies the KenCen honors in protest of his presidency.
Another personality out of the mix on Sunday was Stephen Colbert, who has hosted the past three editions of the ceremony, which will air Dec. 26 as a special on CBS. Colbert was dropped from the role earlier in the year because of his nightly diatribes against Trump on CBS’ “The Late Show.”
According to Variety, the event proceeded without a formal emcee. Caroline Kennedy offered a brief welcome, and some emcee-like duties were fulfilled by 2001 KenCen honoree Quincy Jones.
Below, Variety has the night’s details:
First up was honoree Estefan, who was praised by actress Eva Longoria and the cast of the Kennedy Center’s upcoming production of the musical “On Your Feet,” inspired by the life story of Estefan and her husband and collaborator, Emilio Estefan. Other participants included singer Chaka Khan and Jon Secada, and Estefan’s longtime Miami Sound Machine band.
The salute to Lear, as expected, included clips and other reflections about his landmark TV shows, “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “One Day At a Time,” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” Each was highlighted against an ever-changing array of sets as appropriate. “All in the Family” star Rob Reiner was on hand to salute Lear at the presidential box before a set that included the iconic living room chairs of Archie and Edith Bunker, which were on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
“Archie wouldn’t let me sit in his chair, and the Smithsonian won’t let me either,” Reiner explained.
The segment for LL Cool J, the center’s first hip-hop honoree, featured a glowing appreciation from Queen Latifah and tributes from an array of rap artists. Actress Meryl Streep dropped by to reminisce about de Lavallade, especially the three years she spent as her student at the Yale University School of Drama. Other artists for de Lavallade’s segment included American Ballet Theater principal Misty Copeland.
Reserving the Richie tribute for last, the center opened with Stevie Wonder at the piano to sing “I Love You” and “Easy.” Singer Kenny Rogers narrated the film tribute while country star Luke Bryan delivered a medley of Richie faves.
View red carpet pics from Saturday’s dinner honoring 2017 Kennedy Center Honors recipients: