Hollywood’s entertainment industry came together like never before in an unprecedented, last-minute, two-hour telethon to raise money for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. “America: A Tribute to Heroes” was carried live by 30 television networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB, drawing an audience of 89 million viewers.
Malibu’s entertainment community was well-represented. Sting dedicated “Fragile” to a friend killed in the attack, David Foster backed Celine Dion in “God Bless America,” Tom Hanks presented and Adam Sandler manned the phones, as did Whoopi Goldberg, Kelsey Grammer and Goldie Hawn.
The event, originating in Los Angeles and New York, brought together the heaviest of heavyweights-Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise and Robert De Niro. There were performances by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, U2 and Mariah Carey, among others.
The presentation was uncharacteristically understated and reflected the somberness of the occasion. There were no glitzy slit-up-to here breast-baring Versace numbers, no applauding studio audiences, no splashy stage sets–just the flickering of candles against a shadowy backdrop and the sound of music.
Media coordinator Leslie Clark of Topanga worked behind the scenes after getting a surprise phone call just last week.
“One of my good friends called me and said all the heads of the networks were putting this on, and would I volunteer? We all did it for free.”
Response was overwhelming. “Everyone was clamoring to participate, the phones were ringing off the hook. Michael Jackson wanted to get in. Meg Ryan wanted to be a presenter, but there was no room.”
The star power was blinding even for Clark, an entertainment industry vet. “Julia Roberts would come in, Brad Pitt, Dennis Franz, Cameron Diaz–they were all up in our offices. I’d go down to the stage and see Neil (Young) or get in the elevator with Kelsey (Grammer).”
For Clark, the highlight was watching Neil Young perform a haunting rendition of John Lennon’s
“Imagine”–just one of a handful of people on an otherwise silent soundstage. And although Clark had slept less than 8 hours in 48, she says it was the most worthwhile project she’s ever done. “It was awesome. I was enormously proud. I got e-mail from people who said thank you for doing that. It felt really good.”
Some of the most stirring words came from Kelsey Grammer. The “Fraiser” star suffered a stunning personal loss when the creator and producer of his successful television show died on board one of the flights that crashed into the World Trade Center. Clearly moved, he quoted the late President John F. Kennedy who said, “Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Some say celebrities and superstars embody a world of gossip and hype and shameless self-promotion. But on this one night, things were different. On this one night, the message was deeper. In the wake of national grief and tragedy, on this one night, united they stood–in brotherhood–from sea to shining sea.