Sep 7, 2010

The 33rd annual Kennedy Center Honors will toast Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney and Merle Haggard, among other celebs who have contributed to American culture.

Well, hello, Oprah! The Kennedy Center announced Tuesday that Oprah Winfrey, the doyenne of daytime television, will be among the five artists receiving this year's Kennedy Center Honors.

The others are musician-songwriters Sir Paul McCartney and Merle Haggard, dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones and composer-lyricist Jerry Herman of "Hello, Dolly!" fame.

The selection of Winfrey may be startling, but it's not without precedent. The choice harks back to 1993 when late-night television host Johnny Carson was selected, breaking the long line of honorees who were strictly traditional performing artists. Winfrey, taking a break from taping for her 25th season and reviewing the nearly 5,000 hours of footage, let out with a buoyant "Wow-zee!"

She explained, "This feels like an official American citizenship in a very exclusive club of artists and contributors to the nation in a very special way. It feels like an elevated kind of award and there aren't many in this category. They look at your work, your life work, who you are as a human being and the spirit of who you are as a human being. Not many honors look at that depth."

David M. Rubenstein, the center's chairman, talked about the "cultural vibrancy" of all five honorees.

"For more than 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has established one of the most innovative careers in the entertainment world, with distinctive accomplishments in television and film," he said.




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