5 honored by Kennedy Center


WASHINGTON -- From "Good Vibrations" to "GoodFellas," Brian Wilson and Martin Scorsese scored. Steve Martin strutted as one of the "wild and crazy guys." Diana Ross sang to Motown stardom. Pianist Leon Fleisher surmounted a debilitating injury.

Their contributions to American culture won them a visit Sunday to the White House and recognition by President Bush, followed by an evening of celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. For their career achievements, the five were named in September as members of the 30th class of Kennedy Center honorees.

The two-hour event will air Dec. 26 on CBS.

Recipients are cited for their excellence in the performing arts -- dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television -- and selected by the center's board of trustees.

For this year's group, the center noted:

-- Singer and songwriter Wilson, 65, for his popular work with the Beach Boys and his "era-defining transformation of the sound of music."

-- Filmmaker Scorsese, 65, for being a "visionary" and "fearless artist."

-- Comedian, actor and novelist Martin, 62, as a "renaissance comic whose talents wipe out the boundaries between artistic disciplines." He hit his stride playing larger-than-life characters while hosting "Saturday Night Live" in the 1970s.

-- Singer Ross, 63, for spreading "romance and joy throughout the world" with her voice.

-- Fleisher, 79, for a career that is a "moving testament to the life-affirming power of art." Fleisher lost the use of his right hand for much of his career because of a rare neurological disease but fought to return to two-handed playing.

As he stood for photos in the White House East Wing, Fleisher told reporters he had gotten a classic dose of Martin's humor. The two saw each other as they left their hotel, and Martin joked to Fleisher, "I hope you win." Fortunately, unlike at the Academy Awards, the Kennedy Center honorees have no such worries.

Still, actor and comedian Martin Short gave his pal some ribbing. Asked what he thought about the Kennedy Center honor for Steve Martin, Short said: "It's fantastic. It's amazing what bribery will do."