I love her! Thank you, Chita. I cannot tell you—this woman! She started my career! We were rehearsing Bye Bye Birdie in Philadelphia, doing tryouts. One day they came down with a new song & dance number for Chita. And Chita said ‘Dick, the skinny kid, doesn’t have anything to do in the first act. Why don’t you let him do it?’ It was ‘Put on a Happy Face,’ which started my whole career! God bless you! I couldn’t dance—she’s the strongest dancer there is in the world. She held me on and kept me out of the orchestra pit.
I don’t know how I got here. I have no credentials at all. But I’m just thrilled to death. You know there’s nobody left alive to know that I was the first emcee of the Kennedy Center awards! Nobody remembers! It was in a house—I got to dance with one of the daughters, I remember, but nobody is around who remembers that!
You know, I don’t think entertainers go into the business to get awards. Your recognition by your peers, I guess, is always a little icing on the cake. But this! I mean this is outta sight. This is, you know… Canterbury Tales, knighthood… there’s nothing beyond this! This is the end!
And I don’t think I earned it, but by God, thank you so much. I’ll remember this forever—and I’m 95, that’s not so long! I apologize for the cane. Four or five hundred falls over a footstool did that. Thank you!
[Immediately following this speech, Dick descended the stage stairs with a flourish and shouted “Ta-da!”]