Last Friday’s unprecedented “America: A Tribute to Heroes” telethon generated pledges of more than $150 million, organizers reported yesterday (Sept. 24). Once collected, the funds will benefit the United Way’s September 11th Fund, which will aid families of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attack victims, with no administrative costs deducted.
The pledges were made through 7 a.m. yesterday through the telethon’s still active tributetoheroes.com Web site or to telephone numbers staffed by more than 38,000 volunteers and automated operators in the United States and Canada.
“America” was shown on 35 separate broadcast and cable networks simultaneously in the U.S. and was seen by just under 60 million viewers there. It featured actors like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts making pitches, and musical performances from Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, and many others.
By contrast, the Live Aid concerts and Band Aid all-star Christmas recording during the 1980s raised a reported $110 million in relief for African famine victims.
Organizers are also considering releasing a compact disc with some of the telethon’s musical performances. Such an all-star album would probably generate much more income. Performances included an unrecorded song by Springsteen, “My City of Ruins,” Neil Young singing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Wyclef Jean doing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” and Tom Petty singing “I Won’t Back Down.”
The night ended with two patriotic numbers: Canadian Celine Dion singing “God Bless America” and Willie Nelson leading an all-star version of “America the Beautiful.”
ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox are paying production costs for the event, staged for security reasons without an audience in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
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