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Music legend Led Zeppelin was recognized on Sunday alongside entertainers from stage and screen for their contributions to the arts and American culture at the Kennedy Center Honors, lifetime achievement awards for performing artists.
The eclectic tribute in Washington alternated between solemn veneration and lighthearted roasting of honorees Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, wisecracking late-night talk show host David Letterman, blues guitar icon Buddy Guy, ballerina Natalia Makarova and Led Zeppelin.
“I worked with the speechwriters — there is no smooth transition from ballet to Led Zeppelin,” President Barack Obama deadpanned while introducing the honorees in a ceremony in the White House East Room.
Friends, contemporaries and a new generation of artists influenced by the honorees took the stage in tribute.
“Dustin Hoffman is a pain the ass,” actor Robert De Niro said in introducing Hoffman, the infamously perfectionist star of such celebrated films as “The Graduate” and “Tootsie.”
“And he inspired me to be a bit of a pain in the ass too,” DeNiro said with a big smile.