Home » Blog » Meg Ryan pokes fun at Billy Crystal, Missy Elliott praises Queen Latifah at Kennedy Center Honors
Celebrities Entertainment News United States

Meg Ryan pokes fun at Billy Crystal, Missy Elliott praises Queen Latifah at Kennedy Center Honors

This year’s Kennedy Center Honors had something for everyone. Opera? Check. Comedy? Check. Hip-hop? Check. Pop? Check. Champagne flutes during intermission? Check.

That versatility makes sense when you consider the 46th Kennedy Center Honors recipients – singer Dionne Warwick; actor and comedian Billy Crystal; actress, singer and rapper Queen Latifah; soprano Renée Fleming; and singer and songwriter Barry Gibb. Five different artists all with two critical ingredients in common: an unwavering commitment to their craft and a lot of love to give the world around them.

Hollywood royalty and politicos (i.e. Washington royalty), including President Joe Biden, arrived in formal wear to celebrate the honorees in a ceremony that will air on Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Laughter lingered, applause echoed and heads bopped as kind words and tunes poured in – from “Say A Little Prayer for You” to “Stayin’ Alive.”

From left, Evan Ryan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 2023 Kennedy Center Honorees Renée Fleming, Queen Latifah, Billy Crystal, Barry Gibb, Dionne Warwick, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter pose for a photo at the State Department following the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) ORG XMIT: DCKW128

Dionne Warwick: ‘Long overdue’ honor

Everyone’s (little) prayers were answered when the Dionne Warwick tribute kicked off the night. Past Kennedy Center honoree Debbie Allen chronicled the highlights of her career and life.

“Many might say that this honor is long overdue, as the list of her accomplishments and accolades could wrap around this building,” Allen said. She’s right: The 82-year-old sold more than 100 million records; became the first African-American vocalist to win a Grammy in the pop category; and was an early voice and advocate for AIDS research and served as a government-appointed health ambassador. Also: Have you seen her sassy Twitter account?

A major part of Warwick’s legacy, of course, was her famously teaming up with the late Burt Bacharach and Hal David for nearly 20 major singles, including “Don’t Make Me Over.”

2023 Kennedy Center Honorees, from left, British singer and member of the Bee Gees, Barry Gibb, singer Dionne Warwick, and soprano Renée Fleming attend the 46th Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Many of Warwick’s hits were sung on the Kennedy Center stage. Mickey Guyton, clad in a ravishing red dress, delivered a diva-worthy performance of “Then Came You.” The diva-off continued with a jaw-dropping rendition of “Alfie” from Cynthia Erivo, who elicited an early standing ovation. Chloe Bailey and past honoree Gladys Knight rounded out the love for the singer, with “Walk on By” and “Say A Little Prayer,” respectively.

No Warwick tribute would be complete, though, without Ego Nwodim, who played Warwick on “Saturday Night Live.” She told USA TODAY about one of her favorite Warwick tweets: “They’re all so good. One of the first ones was ‘If chance the rapper is so obviously a rapper, why does he have to have it in his name?’ Something like that.”

‘Life is better’ because of Billy Crystal

Did you know that Billy Crystal, 75, came up with those unforgettable words from “When Harry Met Sally?” “I’ll have what she’s having” from the 1989 romantic comedy have reverberated across generations – so much so that a key component of Crystal’s Kennedy Center Honors showcase took place at a makeshift Katz’s Delicatessen.

While co-star Meg Ryan didn’t quite repeat her performance from the film, she had some fun at Crystal’s expense.

“The scene came really naturally to me, and I really have Billy to thank for that,” she said, sending the audience into instant snickers. And again, when she joked she’d never been around anyone who made faking an orgasm easier.

Then, she got sappy: “As his wife Janice has known for over 50 years, falling in love with Billy is a pretty easy thing to do.” (Awww.)

Jay Leno, Bob Costas, Whoopi Goldberg (who shouted out the duo’s late “Comic Relief” partner, Robin Williams), Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robert De Niro (who struggled reading the teleprompter all night) and Rob Reiner, too, all offered heartfelt words for a big-hearted human.

“My life is better because Billy Crystal has been in it,” Reiner said. “Love you, Bill.”

2023 Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Crystal waves as he is applauded by fellow honoree Dionne Warwick at the 46th Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

Queen Latifah: ‘One of the best rappers of all time’

Maybe you know her from “Chicago.” Or “The Equalizer.” Or “Last Holiday” (she told USA TODAY on the red carpet she “would love to” make a sequel of this 2006 romantic comedy, for the record). But the evening was mostly about her fierce, fearless hip-hop roots.

Queen Latifah, 53, is the first female rapper to become a Kennedy Center Honoree – timely, given this year marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Everyone from MC Lyte to Rapsody kissed the ring of the queen, so to speak, including adorable 5-year-old rapper Van Van. “Thank you for being an inspiration,” she said, in the sweetest voice imaginable for someone up past their bedtime. “We salute you.”

“She started as a rapper, an emcee, when success was an anomaly because the genre was mostly male,” said her friend and actress Kerry Washington. “But she went on to dominate, becoming one of the best rappers of all time, male or female.”

The crowd couldn’t help but wave their arms for her hit “U.N.I.T.Y.” – but it was Missy Elliott’s speech that drove home Queen Latifah’s impact. In her eyes, Queen Latifah’s “queen” moniker sent a message: “I won’t set the bar. I am the bar.”

An electric, empowering cover of “I Know Where I’ve Been” from The Clark Sisters closed out the segment and (literally) ended on a high note before a brief intermission.

Renée Fleming: ‘Don’t accept your limitations’

Renée Fleming and opera are practically synonymous. But her talents go beyond opera, to jazz, Broadway and even indie rock; she’s also a prominent advocate for arts, health and neuroscience research.

The performances honoring her reflected her vocal versatility, from an operatic quartet of “Song to the Moon (Rusalka)” to Dove Cameron’s “The Light in the Piazza” to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” featuring voices including Tituss Burgess and Christine Baranski.

As for advice for aspiring singers: “Double major,” because “it’s a very competitive field, and it’s hard to get into,” she told USA TODAY on the red carpet. Also, “don’t accept your limitations.” Work hard and master all your skill sets – and be prepared for years of training.

Ariana DeBose, Ben Platt sing for Barry Gibb

Who didn’t Barry Gibb work with? Dolly PartonBarbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, fellow honoree Dionne Warwick – the list goes on and on and on for the Bee Gees frontman. His late brothers Robin and Maurice weren’t in attendance but the power of music is evidently everlasting; the first notes of Little Big Town’s cover of “Lonely Days” cleared that up quick.

Bublé crooned next with a haunting “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” followed by Ben Platt with an apt “Nights on Broadway” that showed off the showman’s dancing skills.

Honoree British musician and singer-songwriter Barry Gibb attends the 46th Kennedy Center Honors gala at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on Dec. 3, 2023.

Ariana DeBose closed out the show with a medley of disco hits – including “Stayin’ Alive” – that appropriately ended the night with confetti.

Much like those tiny yellow pieces of paper will follow Washingtonians for days, so will the music and memories. of another Kennedy Center Honors. We’ll toast another champagne flute to that.

Source: USA Today