WASHINGTON -- Academy Award-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor and Grammy-honored singer Paul Simon were among five stars from the world of performing arts honored Sunday for their career achievements. \nJoining them at a White House reception before a gala at the nearby Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts were actor James Earl Jones, actress-singer-dancer Chita Rivera and conductor James Levine. \nPresident Bush and first lady Laura Bush planned to attend the 25th annual program where the careers of this year's honorees are celebrated. \nThe Kennedy Center's chairman, James A. Johnson, called Taylor "a luminous film actress who for nearly 60 years has been a Hollywood icon treasured by millions throughout the world.'' \nTaylor, 72, became a child star with "National Velvet'' in 1944 and later won Oscars for "Butterfield 8'' in 1960 and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf'' in 1966. \nMore recently, she has helped raise millions of dollars to fight AIDS. \nSimon, 51, was added to the lineup in August when, a few weeks after the official announcement, former Beatle Paul McCartney withdrew because of a personal obligation. The Kennedy Center said McCartney would be on the 2003 list and that Simon would have been honored in the future. \nThe other honorees are: \n• Levine, 49, longtime musical director of the Metropolitan Opera and now leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was credited with bringing "one of the world's foremost opera companies to unsurpassed artistic excellence.'' \n• Rivera, 69, "a musical theater star of the highest magnitude.'' She is a two-time Tony Award winner. \n• Jones, 71, "an actor whose extraordinary range and power have made him an American institution.'' The voice of the evil Darth Vader in "Star Wars,'' his long and varied career has produced two Tonys and four Emmys. \nThe first Kennedy Center honors in 1978 named singer Marian Anderson, actor and dancer Fred Astaire, choreographer George Balanchine, composer Richard Rodgers and pianist Arthur Rubinstein. \nThe program airs Dec. 27 on CBS.
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