By Adele Chapin Posted December 8, 2009, 1:06 PM EST
WASHINGTON The Kennedy Center Honors gala is always a star-studded affair, and Sunday’s incarnation honoring Mel Brooks, jazz composer Dave Brubeck, opera singer Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro, and Bruce Springsteen at the Kennedy Center was no exception.
In addition to the honorees, guests included the Obamas, who attended for the first time. Even in light of the party crasher scandal following the first state dinner, security procedures remained the same as previous years—still an important priority—according to Carolyn Peachey of Campbell Peachey & Associates, who produced the event with gala co-chair Buffy Cafritz. The red carpet in the Hall of States that lead toward the Grand Foyer ended in a row of metal detectors, with guests in evening gowns and tuxedos lining up to be scanned by security wands. Anyone entering through the Hall of States and the Hall of Nations had to show ushers their ticket in order to pass through the metal detector, and then again to Opera House ushers, before being escorted to their seats.
The 32nd annual award show, scheduled to be broadcast on CBS on December 29, included tributes to the nominees from Hollywood heavy-hitters such as Meryl Streep, Martin Scorcese, and Carl Reiner, and included performances ranging from opera to Blazing Saddles sketches. The evening’s final act saw Sting, Eddie Vedder, John Mellencamp, Jennifer Nettles, and Melissa Etheridge reinterpret classic Springsteen songs as the audience cheered “Bruuce!” About 2,400 guests attended the performance, which was exclusively underwritten by the Boeing Company for the sixth year.
The collision of artists, politicians, and everyone in between is what makes the event memorable, according to Cafritz. “It’s an eclectic group—that’s what makes it such a wonderful evening,” she said. “There’s everyone from celebrities to people involved with politics and the private sector. It’s a wonderful mix of people.”
After the three-and-a-half-hour performance concluded at 11 p.m., guests picked up commemorative programs and made their way back to the grand foyer for a gala supper for 1,900. Decor in the foyer included rich brown linens and warm gold lighting, with more than 160 round tables topped with sequined copper tablecloths and a mix of high and low rose bouquets accented with trailing ivy, provided by Flowers by Daniel.
Restaurant Associates’ menu included a root vegetable salad and coffee-rubbed filet of beef with corn bread and sautéed spinach. Due to the late hour, instead of serving a dessert course, waiters brought out plates with small cookies and macaroons at 12:45 a.m. “We are serving a set dessert,” Cafritz said. “We found in pervious years, because of the late hour, people didn’t eat it or didn’t want to wait for it.” But at 1 a.m., some guests were still mingling, nibbling from the dessert plates, and dancing to music by the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, while others headed toward the long line of limos and cars waiting outside.