On The Avenue

Stars Align at Lincoln Center American Songbook Gala

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Monday, February 6, 2017

The stars aligned at Lincoln Center last week, as celebrities and famed television personalities surprised CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, who was honored at the American Songbook Gala.

“Being honored here tonight has really classed me up,” said Moonves on the red carpet prior to the event, as he reflected on going from an unemployed actor to being the star of the evening’s event.

The gala was hosted by James Corden, of The Late Late Show with James Corden fame.

“I owe everything to Les Moonves right now,” said Corden on the red carpet. “He changed my life and my family’s life. I will forever be indebted to him for giving me such an opportunity. When he asked me to host this event, I felt proud and honored for this chance to thank him for what was done for me, and hopefully have a laugh at his expense. It will be wonderful.”

The event’s performers were kept under wraps until they hit the stage. The celebration opened with a performance by Paul Schaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band (the CBS Orchestra) as they played a medley of CBS TV show theme songs, including “All In The Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”—the audience noticeably sighed as they remembered the late actress— “The Jeffersons,” “M*A*S*H” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Corden kicked off the festivities with a few jokes about the number of rich white people in the audience, but commented on how all played an integral role in American songwriting— “Without you, who would Springsteen be mad at?” he deadpanned. He then parodied Les Misérables to tell the story of a television executive who sought to conquer the industry in Les Moonveserables.

LL Cool J got the crowd on their feet during his mash-up of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and “Going Back to Cali.” Country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill thanked Moonves for the network’s support of country music after performing their hit duet, “I Need You.”

The night also included a reunion of two superstars Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. (Yes, they’re still close friends to this day.) The two traded stories about how they came to star in Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, which was broadcasted on CBS in 1962. They joined Christine Baranski for the finale of “Old Friends,” to a standing ovation.

The gala was also hosted by Lincoln Center Chairman Katherine Farley and co-chaired by Barry DillerDiane Von FurstenbergAdrienne Arsht and Bryan Lourd. The event raised a record-breaking $3 million for Lincoln Center programming. It also kicked off this season’s American Songbook Series, which runs through May. Now in its 18th season, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook has been dedicated to celebrating the achievements of the popular American songwriter from the turn of the 20th century, to the present day.

Guests included Kelly Ripa and Mark ConsuelosChelsea ClintonArianna HuffingtonDavid GeffenBrian GrazerLorne MichaelsMercedes BassBruce BozziMatthew MorrisonAlina ChoRonald PerelmanCandice BergenLaurie TischGraydon CarterAnnette De La RentaKenneth Cole and Henry and Marie Jose Kravis.


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