Obama honors Springsteen, De Niro, Brooks

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The Independent Culture

US President Barack Obama paid tribute to rocker Bruce Springsteen, actor Robert de Niro and film director Mel Brooks for their work for American culture at a black tie dinner in Washington.

"On a day like this I remember, I'm the president, but he's The Boss," Obama said as he welcomed 60-year-old Springsteen, one of five prominent recipients of Kennedy Center Honors at the event late Sunday.

Opera diva Grace Bumbry and jazz musician Dave Brubeck also got the awards at the gala performance at the Kennedy Center followed by a reception at the White House.

The tuxedo-clad president sat behind First Lady Michelle Obama, who wore a floor-length purple gown, at the Kennedy Center show.

Actress Meryl Streep gave a rousing tribute to "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" star De Niro, saying De Niro was the real "gold standard," the one "we stole from."

Speaking about De Niro, comedian Ben Stiller interrupted his presentation to poke fun of Obama.

"Oh, my God, it's Bruce Springsteen," he said jokingly. "And then it's the Nobel Peace guy."

Obama travels to Oslo this week to accept the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded in October for his promotion of nuclear nonproliferation, efforts to foster a "new climate" in international relations and attempts to reach out to the Muslim world.

Obama recalled how his father, who came to Hawaii in 1971 to visit him for about a month, took him to his first jazz concert in Honolulu.

"And it was a Dave Brubeck concert. The world he opened up to a 10-year-old boy was spectacular," the president pointed out.

Brubeck's rise to jazz stardom began with his hit "Take Five," which was included in his 1959 Dave Brubeck Quartet album "Time Out".

Soul diva Aretha Franklin gave a presentation about mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry, who made her debut in Paris in the 1960s playing Amneris in "Aida" and became a pioneer black opera artist.

Brooks was honored for films such as the Oscar-winning "The Producers" in 1968 which was re-made into a Broadway musical that captured 12 Tony Awards.

The Kennedy Center Honors have been given each year since 1968 to Americans who have transformed US culture.

Following a scandal last month after a couple of publicity seekers crashed the first state dinner of the Obama presidency, security around the White House and Kennedy Center events was tight.

Curious onlookers were warned: "Move up or down. The Secret Service doesn't want you here."