September 9, 2009 / 4:15 PM / 9 years ago

De Niro, Springsteen among 2009 Kennedy honorees

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Actor Robert De Niro, musician Bruce Springsteen and funnyman Mel Brooks are among the entertainers whose careers will be celebrated at this year’s Kennedy Center Honors Gala in December.

Actor Robert De Niro arrives at the premiere of the film "Whatever Works" on the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, April 22, 2009.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The honorees also include jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck and opera singer Grace Bumbry. They will be feted before America’s entertainment and political glitterati on December 6 at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host a White House reception for the honorees the day before the 32nd annual gala and sit with them during the awards program.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also due to host a December 5 dinner in their honor at the State Department.

Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman described the honorees as “five extraordinary individuals whose unique and abundant artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world.”

Brubeck, whose Dave Brubeck Quartet is best known for the enduring jazz hit “Take Five,” turns 89 on the day of the gala and will be honored for what the Kennedy Center called six decades of dazzling musical genius.

The center recognized Bumbry, 72, for helping to break the color barrier for blacks in American opera while on her way to becoming one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation.

Brooks, 83, was noted for the hilarity of his movies and musicals including “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers.”

De Niro, 66, has demonstrated a legendary commitment to his characters including the young Mafia godfather Vito Corleone in “The Godfather: Part 2” and the real-life boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” the center said.

“With his gritty and honest songs that speak to the everyman, Bruce Springsteen has always had his finger on the pulse of America,” the center said of the 59-year-old New Jersey performer nicknamed “the Boss.”

The Kennedy Center gala will be recorded and broadcast nationwide on December 29 by the CBS television network as a primetime special.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Eric Walsh

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