WASHINGTON — Actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt and the disco-funk band Earth Wind and Fire shared the spotlight Sunday night as part of the latest group of recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievements in the arts.
Also in this year’s class were conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and long-running children’s TV show “Sesame Street.”
Sunday’s event featured a genuinely unique event for the Kennedy Center as Big Bird walked the red carpet along with fellow “Sesame Street” characters Bert and Ernie, Abby and Cookie Monster, accompanied by their respective humans.
The massive yellow avian’s appearance held a particular resonance as Caroll Spinney, Big Bird’s original puppeteer, died earlier Sunday at age 85.
“I’m heartbroken that this happened on this particular day,” said Sonia Manzano, who played Maria for decades on “Sesame Street.” “But I’m glad we’re all together.”
As she entered the building, Field, who has won two Academy Awards and three Emmys, reflected on the unique nature of the Kennedy Center Honors medallion.
“It’s not about one performance. It’s not about being the flavor of the month,” she said. “it recognizes artists whose body of work has resonated over the years.”
Once again, the attendance of President Donald Trump was a topic of speculation until the White House said Friday that neither he nor first lady Melania Trump would attend. Trump skipped the past two celebrations; in 2017, multiple recipients threatened to boycott the event if he attended.
Tom Hanks, as the entered the building, pointed out that this annual tension seems unique to the Trump administration.
“We’ve been here for Republican presidents and we’ve been here for Democratic presidents,” he said. “We were all celebrating the arts in America.”
Each recipient is being honored with a personalized presentation that in the past has in included surprise guests. Last year, Cher was shocked to find her friend Cyndi Lauper walking onstage to deliver a tribute; Lauper had said she would be out of town.
The event will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 15.