Comedian/occasional rock star Jack Black got right to the point at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors. He was there to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin, and started his speech by yelling their name, as if he was demanding that a DJ play his favorite Zep jams.
It kicked off a hilarious tribute from the man who once sent a video appeal to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to allow a film he starred in, School Of Rock, to use “Immigrant Song” for an important scene. (In reference to that, the house orchestra played “Immigrant Song” as Black took the stage).
Clearly, it was a departure for the Kennedy Center Honors. Now in its 35th year, the ceremony started out by paying tribute to cultural icons like Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams. In recent years, rock has been represented more and more at this prestigious event, with Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen all collecting the Kennedy Center medallion. But past ceremonies probably never got as loud as this year’s.
Of course, Led Zeppelin were the event’s headliners. The show kicked off with a tribute to legendary actor Dustin Hoffman, who was feted by his Wag The Dog co-star Robert DeNiro (a Kennedy Center honoree in 2009). DeNiro deadpanned that “Dustin Hoffman is a world class, colossal… pain in the ass. He inspired me to be a pain in the ass too,” noting that Hoffman’s perfectionism may not have made things easy for filmmakers, but it did result in better films.