Oprah Winfrey and McCartney top new Kennedy Center Honors

Tue Sep 7, 2010 4:51pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and former Beatle Paul McCartney top the list of show business luminaries to be saluted for their contributions to U.S. arts and culture at this year's Kennedy Center Honors.

Rounding out the roster of 2010's honorees announced by organizers on Tuesday are country music legend Merle Haggard, Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman of "Hello Dolly!" fame, and dancer-choreographer-director Bill T. Jones.

Recipients of the 33rd annual awards will be feted at a December 5 gala event attended by U.S. entertainment and political glitterati at the opera house of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will welcome the honorees to a White House reception. The five recipients will be saluted with tributes and performances by peers at the Kennedy Center later in the evening.

The CBS television network will broadcast the Kennedy Center gala, which has become a highlight of Washington's cultural calendar, on December 28 as a two-hour special.

"The Kennedy Center celebrates five individuals who have spent their lives enriching, inspiring and elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world," Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein said in a statement.

The naming of Winfrey, one of the most influential and highly paid women on television, comes as she prepares to end her popular weekday talk show in 2011 after 25 years on the air, to focus on the launch of her own cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, a Los Angeles-based venture she formed with Discovery Communications Inc.

Winfrey, 56, also plans to debut a new evening program called "Oprah's Next Chapter" she will host from different venues around the globe on OWN.   Continued...

<p>U.S talk show host Oprah Winfrey speaks to the audience during a special live show at Radio City Music Hall in celebration of O Magazine's 10th anniversary in New York City, May 7, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>