June 03, 2004
Stars taking stage in two Kerry fund-raisers
By Tamara Conniff
Artists are coming out in full force in support of Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry. Two major concerts will be held next week — one Monday June 7 in Los Angeles at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and one June 10 in New York at Radio City Music Hall — to raise money for the campaign.
The Los Angeles gala will feature performances by Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson and Billy Crystal, while the New York show boasts Bette Midler, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Jon Bon Jovi, Wyclef Jean, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.
“It’s very ambitious. I don’t think the artistic community has gotten together to raise this much money in one effort in my recollection,” said Jann Wenner, editor and publishing of Rolling Stone, who is executive producing both events. “The artist community is united on this because of the kinds of values that the artist community shares and feels deeply are very threatened by the current administration. Kerry himself has been a longtime musician, a longtime fan of the arts, a longtime supporter of intellectuals’ pursuits of civil liberties. These are all the things that this community depends on — the freedom of expression, creative freedom. These are core concerns.”
Wenner first met Kerry in the 1970s, during the Vietnam era. Kerry, after serving in the Vietnam War, for which he received a Silver Star and three Purple Heart awards, co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America and became a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The two rekindled their friendship when Kerry was elected to the United States Senate in 1984.
Wenner also was behind a similar concert 2002 — in support Al Gore’s bid for the presidency — which reportedly raised more than $6.5 million. It was then that Wenner promised to put on such a show for Kerry if he decided to run for president.
The Los Angeles show also is being produced by Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein, Streisand’s manager Marty Erlichman and special event producer Ken Ehrlich. The host committee includes Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito, Laurie and Larry David, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Rita Wilson.
The concert also will mark the first time Streisand and Diamond have performed together in 24 years. The duo will perform their hit duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”
“The idea for the Los Angeles show was really to present the American classics, the great big standards,” Wenner says. “Willie, Billy, Barbra and Neil — these are people who sing to the heartland of America.”
For the New York event, Wenner and Weinstein are working closely with John Sykes, chairman and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting System. The host committee includes Chevy Chase, Jimmy Fallon, Richard Gere, Jessica Lange and Uma Thurman. Darlene Love also will be on hand to do a surprise performance with Midler. Kerry will speak at both galas.
“People understand that this is a really important time in our country’s history,” Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill says. “We’re all watching the same newscast and it makes us want to change the direction of our country.”
Cahill says that the concerts are a key way for Kerry to reach out to a different audience.
“That is one of the very valuable services that these artists perform for the campaign, that a different group of people will pay attention,” Cahill says. “We did very well with younger voters in the primaries but they will be a hard-fought battleground in the general election, so concerts such as these are an enormous asset to us.”