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Grifter vs. grifter

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The only thing more off-putting than the contestants’ behavior is their unshakable sense of self-worth. After an hour of backstabbing, one of the guys says, “I can hold my head up high. I was true to myself.”

If “yourself” is that vile, should you really make a virtue of staying “true” to it?

Kennedy Center Honors (8pm Tuesday, CBS)
Every year the Kennedy Center celebrates “extraordinary individuals whose artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” according to chairman David M. Rubenstein. No one could quarrel with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and actress Meryl Streep, who are feted in this year’s ceremony. But Neil Diamond? I fail to see how songs like “I Am … I Said” have contributed significantly to the world’s cultural life:  “I am, I said/To no one there/And no one heard at all/Not even the chair.”

The Kennedy Center grandees have never had trouble allowing cheesiness inside America’s palace of culture — witness previous honorees Andrew Lloyd Webber, Perry Como, Jerry Herman, and Dolly Parton. And yet they feel it’s beneath them to recognize Jerry Lewis, whose annual absence from the ceremony is nothing short of a national disgrace. Never mind Lewis’ groundbreaking career in vaudeville, TV, and movies; never mind his influence on such key figures as Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey. Meanwhile, Neil Diamond, who hasn’t influenced anyone of note, gets the official imprimatur and a handshake with President Obama.

I make a stink about this every year, and I’ve even sent a letter to the Kennedy Center protesting Lewis’ exclusion. But no seems to hear … not even the chair.

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