Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, was in high spirits at a star-studded birthday celebration in his honor Sunday evening at — where else? — the Kennedy Center.
The icing on the birthday cake? Kennedy was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, which celebrates his brother's legacy. Niece Caroline Kennedy presented the award.
"I never thought I'd be in a room with so many senators," Caroline Kennedy joked, perhaps referencing her one-time bid for the New York Senate seat. "Even though Kennedys have been known to give ourselves awards as often as possible," the committee wasn't sure about bestowing the award on a Kennedy, she said. "Tonight, that is about to change … We love you, Uncle Teddy."
Hosted by Bill Cosby, Some Enchanted Evening: A Music Birthday Salute included tributes from stars such as Lauren Bacall, Al Hunt, Phyllis Newman and James Taylor. Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts since 1962, turned 77 on Feb. 22.
Kennedy enjoyed the performances and chatted animatedly with Michelle Obama, seated to his right. Also in attendance: Vice President Biden and wife Jill, Sen. John McCain, Sen. John Kerry and wife Teresa, and Maria Shriver.
"It's Teddy's birthday, and so Teddy has a party and invited all these people to his party. I never had that kind of money," joked funnyman Cosby, who kicked off the night with a comedy routine.
Bernadette Peters, clad in a slinky sequin showstopper, got the crowd going when she stepped down from the stage during her rendition of There Is Nothing Like a Dame from South Pacific. "Happy birthday, Sir Ted!" she said at the conclusion of her song. Last week, Kennedy was awarded an honorary knighthood by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Bacall and Newman introduced Frederica von Stade, who sang I've Told Every Little Star from Music in the Air. "Senator, listen carefully: This song might have been written for you," Bacall said.
Newman described the senator as "loyal, warm-hearted, yet bold, funny … and a singer. A relentlessly enthusiastic singer!"
Taylor performed Belfast to Boston. "I thought it would be appropriate to play tonight, because no one has done more than Senator Ted Kennedy to help resolve the problems of Ireland," Taylor said.
President Obama made a surprise appearance at the end of the show, joining the performers onstage to lead the room in singing Happy Birthday to Kennedy.