The star-studded Kennedy Center Honors kicked off their annual gala Sunday night with a tribute to the late President George H.W. Bush, with the crowd of celebrities, lawmakers and administration officials giving him a standing ovation.
Host Gloria Estefan led the crowd – consisting of Cher, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Reba McEntire, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and others – in paying tribute to the late president.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the vice president’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, and Senators Chris Coons, Rand Paul, Mark Warner, Patrick Leahy, and Jeff Flake were in the crowd as was Fox News anchor Bret Baier.
‘Before we begin with a tribute to our first honoree,’ Estefan said, ‘I think it’s appropriate to recognize the passing of a wonderful man who dedicated his life to service and who graciously attended this event many times during his administration, laughing, applauding, singing along and even shedding a tear from right up there in the presidential box.’
For the second year in a row, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped the event, one of the biggest nights on Washington D.C.’ s social calendar.
Host Gloria Estefan led the crowd in a tribute to the late President George H.W. Bush
Bush attended the Honors when he occupied the White House
Among the 2018 Honorees are Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire
Estefan recounted how, when she performed in Washington D.C. during Bush’s presidency, he invited her, her husband and then 8-year-old son to the White House where he spent 45 minutes talking to her son about how the administration worked.
It was after her meeting with him, she said, she had her accident – when a semi-truck crashed into the tour bus she was in during a snowstorm in March of 1990.
‘He called me at the hospital – he had to call the office first because they didn’t believe the president was calling me,’ she recounted.
She said he called to check on her repeatedly throughout her recovery.
‘He was a gentle kind man my family and I will never forget,’ she said.
The annual Kennedy Center Honors, which tapes Sunday night and airs December 26, paid tribute to singer Cher, composer Philip Glass, country singer Reba McEntire, jazz musician Wayne Shorter, and gave a first-time award to the co-creators of the musical ‘Hamilton’: ‘Special Honors for Groundbreaking Work.’
As typical with show, a round of celebrities showed up to pay tribute to their colleagues for being given the prestigious award.
Country duo Brooks & Dunn sang to McEntire while Kelly Clarkson belted out one of her greatest hits ‘Fancy.’
Adam Lambert gave his spin on Cher’s signature ballad ‘Believe’ and Cindy Lauper belted out ‘Turn Back Time’ as the crowd roared to its feet to dance along.
Lauper recounted the famous quote of how the only things to survive a nuclear war would be Cher and cockroaches.
‘I just want to thank you because you showed us all how to survive,’ she said.
Some of the biggest applause of the night went to the musical ‘Hamilton.’
In a video accompanying the award, Lin-Manuel Miranda credited then-President Barack Obama, who invited him to give a performance at a musical showcase at the White House, in helping get the musical off the ground.
‘My performance went viral,’ he said of his May 2009 singing, adding it ‘helped get the musical going.’
Original cast members from show New York City performance were on hand to perform.
Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones – the original Schuyler sisters from the show – performed their signature song ‘The Schuyler Sisters.’
Miranda took to the stage to perform ‘One Last Time’ with Chris Jackson, who played George Washington in the original performance.
‘If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on, It outlives me when I’m gone,’ goes a lyric from the song, which is Washington’s decision not to seek another term of the presidency.
Cindy Lauper sang Cher’s ‘Turn Back Time’ as part of her tribute
Kelly Clarkson sang ‘Fancy’ for Reba McEntire
Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi was among the guests
Jackson told DailyMail.com Washington’s writings would be the place to find what advice he would leave for the current president.
‘I think a lot can be found that Washington left – in terms of his papers – when he warned the country of certain characters, of people with other motives, I think he was very specific in that,’ he said.
And, if Alexander Hamilton had a twitter account he would likely give President Donald Trump a run for his money in number of tweets, as his biographer Ron Chernow believes he would be an ‘active’ presence on social media.
‘If he had a twitter account it would be a pretty active one. Hamilton was never at a loss for words,’ he told DailyMail.com Sunday night on the red carpet at the taping of the annual Kennedy Center Honors.
Twitter is the current president’s preferred method of communication and he can blast out several tweets in an hour when the mood strikes him.
Hamilton was a prolific writer himself but Chernow said the founding father would struggle with Twitter because he liked to write long intellectual essays.
‘It’s a little bit hard for me to picture Hamilton in a world dominated by tweets and sound bites. He would find contemporary politics thin and superficial in certain ways because of the depth he would argue things,’ he said.
Chernow’s book inspired the hit broadway musical ‘Hamilton.’
Cher was honored for her signing career
Singer Reba McEntire was also honored
Lin-Manuel Miranda poses on the red carpet with his wife Vanessa Nadal
The musical’s creators – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacmoire – were on hand to receive the Kennedy Center’s first ever award for groundbreaking work.
The musical features a song on the controversial presidential election of 1800 where Thomas Jefferson and John Adams engaged in some epic mudslinging.
Miranda said the 2016 presidential election – a nasty battle between Trump and Hillary Clinton – didn’t even come close.
‘It’s hard to beat my opponent is a hermaphrodite. My opponent is dead. Vote for me. That was the election of 1800,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘It reminds us that past is present as past is present as past is present,’ he added.
2018 Kennedy Center honorees, back row from left, the co-creators of “Hamilton” Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire; and front row from left, Wayne Shorter, Cher, Reba McEntire, and Philip Glass appear on stage during the 41st Annual Kennedy Center Honors
The Bushes attended the Honors when they were in the White House, here Barbara Bush speaks to the honors from 1999
The Trumps weren’t occupying the presidential box, which was called the Honoree Box for the guests sitting there.
Cher, one of the honorees sitting in that space, has been particularly critical of the president – calling him a ‘cancer’ – and had said she had hoped to be honored by the Kennedy Center when Barack Obama was in the White House.
When DailyMail.com asked her what she would have said to Trump if he had come Sunday night, she responded: ‘Oh go away.’
It was unclear if she meant the president, the reporter or both.