Celebrities pitch in to help
(CNN) -- Perhaps Tom Hanks said it best at Friday night's star-studded telethon.
"Those of us here tonight are not heroes, or healers, or protectors of this great nation. We are merely artists, here to raise spirits and a great deal of money."
And they did. The telethon -- which aired on more than 30 television networks, 8,000 radio stations, and on the Internet -- has brought in more than $150 million in pledges so far.
Far from being an exception, celebrity benefits during times of national and international distress are the norm.
Bob Hope boosted the spirits of the country and its servicemen through hard times and war times. Music industry veterans such as musicians Bob Geldof, Michael Jackson and Willie Nelson, producer Quincy Jones, and manager Ken Kragen created the variety of charitable festivals known as Band Aid, Live Aid, and Farm Aid. Comedians Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams helped drive the Comic Relief cause for the homeless.
The September 11 tragedy has produced several such benefits intended to help the victims' families.
Jerry Seinfeld is hoping to raise funds with the sound of laughter. He'll be joined by Bill Cosby, Colin Quinn, Will Ferrell and George Wallace October 8 at Carnegie Hall for "Stand-up for New York," with proceeds going to the Twin Towers Fund and the New York Police and Fire Widow and Children Benefit Fund.
Others hope to raise funds with the sound of music. Diana Ross and Patti Labelle are part of the clan who are re-recording Sister Sledge's 1979 "We Are Family" hit to aid victims' charities.
Part of the proceeds from an all-star version of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On," recorded by U2's Bono and several others -- originally intended to fight AIDS in Africa -- will now go to terrorist-victim charities.
Michael Jackson is getting back into the giving act, hoping to raise $50 million with a benefit song called "What More Can I Do?" Whitney Houston's 1991 version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," recorded at the Super Bowl during the Persian Gulf War, is being re-released by Arista Records. Proceeds from the single will benefit the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fun and the New York Fraternal Order of Police.
Willie Nelson has proclaimed that Farm Aid 2001 will help restore farmers' markets destroyed in the World Trade Center attack. And there is help from across the Atlantic in the form of Paul McCartney, who is holding a concert in October to benefit post-attack relief efforts. McCartney's father was a firefighter in Liverpool during World War II.
Some celebrities are adding money from their own pockets.
Britney Spears will donate one dollar from each ticket sold for her upcoming U.S. tour to the children of New York firefighters killed in the World Trade Center attack. Spears hopes to raise $2 million.
Rap impresario Dr. Dre took immediate action and wrote a million-dollar check.
"I didn't donate the money to get, you know, big recognition from it, or to be noticed like that," he said. "I did it to help, strictly just to help ... a million dollars was the least I could do to help."
Also helping with million-dollar donations are Rosie O'Donnell, Sandra Bullock and Jim Carrey.
Julia Roberts gave a total of $2 million, split between the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and the September 11th Telethon Fund.
No doubt, it's all just a start. Whether through laughter, music or simply generosity of spirit, celebrities continue their longtime tradition of helping out.
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