The mood was somber and celebrity little more than a means to an end when tonight's telethon, America: A Tribute to Heroes, was shown on every major network and most of the major cable channels. There was no audience applauding; there was no audience, period, except those at home. There were no introductions; that wasn't the point, as celebrity speakers made clear throughout the night by telling the stories of the many heroes who lost their lives and saved the lives of others.
To commemorate Sept. 11, a day that could easily be thought of as "the day the music died," talented and famous faces came together for an evening of songs, stories, and yes, the occasional call for contributions.
The speeches tonight came in all varieties, all impassioned, some tearful, others awkward. A clearly nervous Jim Carrey spoke of Winston Churchill, then told the story of heroes who saved a woman by carrying her down 68 flights of stairs. George Clooney spoke of John Perry, a New York City policeman who'd filed his retirement papers the morning of Sept. 11, but heard of the tragedy and went to help. He never came back, Clooney said.
Cameron Diaz told stories of teachers who saved children at schools near the World Trade Center. Robin Williams talked of a hero who'd saved lives in the 1993 bombing and again this time, only last Tuesday he didn't make it out himself. Jimmy Smits spoke of police heroes, "cops who are willing to sacrifice their lives in an instant, for people they do not know." Julia Roberts spoke tearfully of heroes at the Pentagon, and the flying of the flag and the applause that greeted it.
Kelsey Grammer, who lost a co-worker aboard one of the flights that crashed, quoted words of strength from John F. Kennedy. Clint Eastwood talked gruffly of a day that would live in infamy.
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Calista Flockhart, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ray Romano, Jane Kaczmarek, Sela Ward, Chris Rock and Dennis Franz also spoke.
With some of the biggest names in music on the bill, America: A Tribute to Heroes was bound to be good. Bruce Springsteen opened with a candlelit acoustic performance of "My City of Ruins." Willie Nelson closed the two-hour event with "God Bless America," backed by an all-star cast of celebs who had been manning the phones all night. Does it get any better than that? Cut the album; give the proceeds to charity. We're there.
Of course, there were those who pointed out the reason for the event in their songs. Stevie Wonder, who followed The Boss, sang, "Love's in Need of Love Today," with the rather pointed line, "Don't delay, send yours in right away." Wyclef Jean's version of "Redemption Song" was peppered with cries of "Brooklyn" and "New York City" and "we've got to full-fill that book," which he sang while pointing to the phone bank.
The much-maligned Mariah Carey sang the only song she could under the circumstances, "Hero," of which she said, "When I wrote this song," she said, "it had a lot of meaning for me, and tonight it has even more meaning." Well said.
U2 appeared from London. Billy Joel tossed off a powerful rendition of "New York State of Mind" with a firefighter's helmet perched atop the piano. Faith Hill, Enrique Iglasias, Alicia Keys, a bearded and shaggy Tom Petty (with requisite Heartbreakers), a cowboy-hatted Neil Young performed as well. The Dixie Chicks were spot on, and Dave Matthews did an impressive solo acoustic tune.
Jon Bon Jovi did "Living on a Prayer"; Sting dedicated his performance of "Fragile" to a friend who died in the attacks. Sheryl Crow performed, and Paul Simon sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, James Woods, Meg Ryan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Ben Stiller, Penelope Cruz, Danny DeVito, Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Benicio Del Toro, Cindy Crawford, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Brad Pitt, Sally Field and other famous faces were seen answering phones at the telethon bank or singing backing vocals on the finale of "God Bless America."
The stars also took the time to make a point about the evils of racism and hate. Several Arab children spoke of the tragedy and its affect on their lives, then Will Smith appeared on stage, with Muhammad Ali, whom he'll be portraying in the forthcoming Ali.
"It was hate, not religion that motivated the attacks," Smith said.
Then Ali spoke. "I'm here because of the troublin' thing that happened the other day. I'm a Muslim, and I've been a Muslim for 20 years…. I think people should know the real truth about Islam. You know me, I'm a boxer…and a man of truth, and I wouldn't be here defending Islam if it was really like the terrorists made it look…. Islam is peace."
Later in the show, Lucy Liu said "America's greatest enemy is hatred itself."
The telethon was Hollywood's effort to generate contributions for the September 11th Telethon Fund, which is administered by the United Way and guaranteed to be distributed 100% to the victims of the terrorist attacks on America last week and their families.
Jackson will hold a star-studded concert tonight at Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 30th anniversary as a solo artist. Scheduled to join him on stage in either appearances or performances are 'NSync, Gladys Knight, Eminem, Destiny's Child, Yoko Ono, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Tucker, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and many more. Jackson is promoting his upcoming album Invincible and is trying to reclaim his "King of Pop" title after a six-year absence from the music world.
The concert also marked the reunion of the Jackson 5, with brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Michael and Marlon making an appearance. Ticket prices for the sold out first night ranged from $45 to $2,500. There will be a second concert on Monday, and the show will also air on CBS at a later date.
Alternative band Limp Bizkit's frontman Fred Durst is now the father of his second child. A 7-pound, 3-ounce son, Dallas, was born last week. The mother has not been identified.
French "New Wave" director Eric Rohmer was honored for his lifetime achievements at the Venice Film Festival Friday. The 81-year-old Rohmer had directed such French classics as Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night at Maud's), which won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1969, and L'Amour l'Apres-midi (Love in the Afternoon).
Television commentator and sports correspondent Heywood Hale "Woodie" Broun died Wednesday at Kingston Hospital in New York. He was 83. Broun worked for 19 years as a CBS sports correspondent and wrote three books. The cause of death has not been released.
A federal judge rejected a temporary restraining order filed by a Little League Baseball coach to block next week's opening of the movie Hardball, a movie about Little League Baseball starring Keanu Reeves. The coach, Bob Muzikowski, brought a defamation suit against Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures over the film because it depicts Reeves' character, who is based on Muzikowski real-life role, as a gambling and alcoholic coach who bullies the players and shows the 9- to -12-year-old players cursing.
Fox News filed suit Thursday against newly hired CNN anchorwoman Paula Zahn's agent N.S. Bienstock. Fox is accusing the agency of breaching Zahn's contract with Fox in order to broker the deal with CNN.
The premiere of the highly anticipated film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has been set for Nov. 4 in London. The screening at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square is expected to attract a host of celebrities and will be followed by a glittering party.
Anne Heche's mother and sister have come forth to express outrage at Heche's claims of sexual abuse at the hands of her father in her new memoirs Call Me Crazy. Anne's mother, Nancy Heche, told PreviewPort.com, "I am trying to find a place for myself in this writing, a place where I as Anne's mother do not feel violated or scandalized. I find no places among the lies and blasphemies in the pages of this book." Anne's sister, Abigail Heche, believes her sister remembers the events of her childhood sporadically and doesn't feel Anne's claims are true, especially on the fact that their mother knew of the sexual abuse.
Garry Trudeau, creator of the popular satirical comic strip Doonesbury, made a half-hearted apology to President George W. Bush for his Sunday comic, which cited an Internet hoax saying Bush had the lowest IQ of any president in the past 50 years, according to what has now been determined as a study from a fictional institute. The Doonesbury site acknowledges the error, stating "Trudeau takes full responsibility, acknowledging the use of fictional material from an outside source instead of simply making it up as he usually does..The creator deeply apologizes for unsettling anyone who was under the impression that the president is, in fact, quite intelligent."