Thursday, September 15, 2005

Celebs Bring Star Power to Katrina Telethons

Thursday, September 15, 2005 — What’s on television today could change the course of tomorrow. Several network stations are airing telethons featuring celebrities as a motivational and opportune way for the public to support the American Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations following Hurricane Katrina.
This weekend’s highlight will be Live from Lincoln Center’s Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert, this Saturday on PBS nationwide from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET. The program is scheduled to include more than 20 famous participants, including Bill Cosby, Bette Midler and Meryl Streep. Alongside its broadcast on National Public Radio, XM Satellite and WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, a thematic CD will be sold with all profits benefiting relief funds. An Eric Clapton-signed guitar will also be auctioned off.
“We have a good expectation for success when offered these opportunities,” said Rachel Bonistalli, American Red Cross spokesperson. She said the organization is grateful to these programs, as well as the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet, made up of 35 celebrities from TV, film, sports and entertainment who help promote Red Cross services to the public.
“Our National Celebrity Cabinet is a huge resource to help keep our story fresh,” said Bonistalli. “They are our first line of supporters, representing a diverse range of talents and audiences.”
ABC network’s The View Soap Opera Stars answered live phone calls for pledges during the program last week for three consecutive days. NBC-Universal’s program, Concert for Hurricane Relief, raised millions last Friday. The Today Show’s Matt Lauer hosted the concert, which began with New Orleans jazz musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis. More inspirational performances by followed, including those by popular artists Tim McGraw, a cabinet member, and Faith Hill. Both have ties to areas hardest hit by Katrina.
Over the weekend, a plethora of networks helped with relief in a marathon of telethons. Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast was aired live on more than two dozen cable channels in more than 95 countries. Stars like Cameron Diaz, Jack Nicholson, Randy Newman, Ray Romano and Chris Rock graced the stage. Queen Latifah and Steve Harvey hosted a benefit on Black Entertainment Television (BET), with musical artists including Keyshia Cole, Jay-Z and Master P performing. Additionally, Saturday’s React Now: Music & Relief excited MTV, VH1 and CMT audiences with performances by the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow and Gretchen Wilson, and many others.
Some cabinet members have contributed in alternate ways, donating flat amounts of $1 million or collecting funds at concerts. Recalling the $18.3 million raised by NBC’s Concert for Hope for tsunami relief in January, Bonistalli was optimistic that, once calculated, funds for Katrina from the telethons will be substantial.


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