Tom Hanks uses a typewriter, Sting needs a hanky & more!

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Credit: Matt McClain/ The Washington Post/Getty

Starting with the startling fact that all the celebrities participating in Sunday night’s The Kennedy Center Honors – from Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga to Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg – “come on their own dime,” according to the gala’s producer, this year’s Honors was packed with things that make you go hmmm.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama presided over the star-studded spectacular, which honored musicians Sting and Al Green, actor Tom Hanks, comedian Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride for their lifetime contributions to the arts. Here’s what we learned about each of these legends:

• Hanks, known not just as “the nicest guy in Hollywood” but “the nicest guy wherever he goes,” has a thing for fine papers and engraved cardstock, said friend Spielberg. Wherever Hanks travels in the world, he can’t resist stationery stores, Spielberg added. “He writes letters to his friends on a typewriter.”

Also outdated: Hanks’s music collection. The Academy Award-winning actor told reporters he hadn’t realized before the weekend’s festivities that Green had branched out from soul into gospel. “When I get back to my laptop, I’m downloading it all,” Hanks promised.

• Green said Obama, who once crooned the opening line of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a political fundraiser, did a more than passable job. “I said to him, ‘Why didn’t you sing the whole thing?’ He sounded better than me!” Green said on the red carpet.

• Sting, for all his success, can be “scowly,” said his pal Streep. And he’s weepy, too. “He teared up last night at Bruce Springsteen’s tribute. It was very moving,” wife Trudie Styler told PEOPLE. (And, by the way, who remembers that Streep and Sting co-starred in the 1985 drama Plenty? Streep fanned herself as she recalled their love scenes. “That was just another job,” she cracked. “And a kind of torture.”)

• Tomlin was one of Jane Lynch’s first role models. The Glee star said she was 15 when she memorized Tomlin’s Modern Scream album, immortalizing the comedy bits she did with characters like Ernestine, Edith Ann and Sister Boogie Man. “Lily Tomlin really spoke to me because her characters were so odd and weird, and I was odd and weird as a kid,” Lynch told reporters on the red carpet. “She made me feel like I had a place in this world.”

• McBride, who starred in the New York City Ballet in the 1960s and ’70s, has performed for five presidents. With an eye toward the honorees sharing the presidential box with the Obamas, host Stephen Colbert joked to McBride, “If she does a quick Hokey Pokey now, she can make it six!”

CBS will broadcast the show on Tuesday, Dec. 30, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.