Tina Turner and Tony Bennett, two legends of American music, earned accolades from a broad array of pop and jazz stars during the Kennedy Center Honors.
In honoring this year's winners, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted swooning to Redford's smile in the 1973 movie "The Way We Were" and still not being able to figure out how Turner dances in 15-centimeter heels.
Rice noted her own background as a concert pianist and said it was people like the honorees who inspired her to abandon a musical career to pursue a path where she could be a star in her own right. The honorees teach us the difference between "what is good and what is great," she said.
TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey called herself "Tina's biggest known groupie" and spoke of seeing Turner perform live, advising the star-studded audience yesterday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, "Add that to the list of things you do before you die."
The most unexpected toast of the evening came from Israeli classical violinist Itzhak Perlman, who came to praise Turner, the singer from Tennessee known for, among other things, her flamboyant stage performances with Mick Jagger.
Perlman said he understood everyone's surprise at his being asked to honor Turner noting their vast differences. In addition to being from opposite sides of the world and performing entirely different genres of music, Perlman also poked fun at their physical differences.
"She is known for her great legs," said the virtuoso who performs sitting down since being paralyzed by polio as a child. "Me, not so much." He went on to call himself a "big fan" and to praise Turner as "simply a great musician."
Bennett was saluted with performances of standards like "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, "For Once in My Life," by R&B star John Legend, and "Fly Me to the Moon," by chanteuse Diana Krall.
Record producer Quincy Jones described Bennett as "a soulful messenger of American songs" and said, "Tony is the one who knows how to fly us to the moon and get us back."
Robert Redford - actor, director and creator of the Sundance independent film festival - took some potshots from Paul Newman, his co-star in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting."
Referring to Redford's reputation for lateness, Newman said, "Backstage they think the only reason he's even in the vicinity was because they told him this whole thing was yesterday."
Glenn Close called Redford "a visionary activist with the heart and soul of an artist," while former NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw dubbed him "captain of America's golden boys."
Julie Harris, a longtime veteran of stage and screen and winner of a record six Tony awards, won kudos from Kevin Spacey, who called her performances "not tricks, but transformations."
"Acting isn't what she does, it's who she is," Spacey said. Harris' films include "The Member of the Wedding," "East of Eden" and "Reflections in a Golden Eye."
Dancer Suzanne Farrell was feted by her former colleague at the New York City Ballet, Jacques d'Amboise. The company, led by George Balanchine, "was the center of American ballet and she was the diamond in its crown," d'Amboise said.
Farrell was the lead dancer in Balanchine-choreographed ballets such as "Meditation" and "The Nutcracker." She is now an instructor.
Earlier yesterday, the members of the 28th annual class of honorees were welcomed by President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush at a White House reception. "Each of these honorees, in a lifetime of achievement, has set a standard of excellence that is admired throughout the world," the president said.