TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Top Hollywood celebrities shine mostbrightly in supporting role

The show must go on. And on September 21, it didn't just go on, it

went off. In perhaps its finest hour, the entertainment community

rallied to put together a smooth-running telethon that was remarkably

stark and poignant. Airing on some 30 channels, the telethon earned huge

ratings and a staggering amount of more than $150 million.



Hollywood won't be as vital as DC or Wall Street in the coming struggle,

but it sure mobilized fast. In less than a week, Tinseltown assembled

names that normally only gather when awards are being presented. You

don't see the likes of Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise staffing phone

banks at the annual PBS fundraiser.



The telethon was organized while Hollywood was itself feeling a bit

under siege. FBI reports of terrorist threats forced all studios to

drastically heighten security. High-powered execs and power players,

accustomed to being quickly nodded through the gate, found themselves

waiting up to half an hour behind a line of cars. No matter. Egos and

attitudes have been checked for the time being. There is an egalitarian

spirit in Hollywood that hasn't existed before. For now.



Naturally, it was a PR pro (who you gonna call?), Barbara Brogliatti,

SVP of corporate communications at Warner Bros., who helped pull the

show together. On the subject, a writer for The New Yorker mentioned

that the networks were underwriting the commercial-free event for the

publicity.



Don't think so. They could have used the ad money more than the PR. The

networks have lost millions covering this tragedy, and without begging

Congress for financial help, like the airlines. And without cutting and

running like the Wall Street institutional investors. Whatever sins the

broadcasters committed this summer with their overblown, infantile

coverage of Condit-Levy, this tragedy has inspired them to go and sin no

more. For now.



Meanwhile, the aftermath of the attacks is still disrupting the

networks' and studios' release schedules. Any film remotely connected to

violence or terrorism has been yanked - Collateral Damage, starring

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most obvious example.



Dawn Taubin, EVP of marketing at Warner Bros., wouldn't tell me anything

beyond the company's press statement, and most publicists I talked to

agree with the studio's decision. I'm not sure I do. The catharsis of

watching Arnie kicking some terrorist butt might help alleviate the

sense of rage, anger and helplessness we are all experiencing. Movies

have the power to do that. Indeed, many New Yorkers who witnessed the

Trade Center disaster reportedly commented, "Where's Bruce Willis when

you need him?"



We can't get our hands on the monsters that attacked us, but I wouldn't

mind the vicarious thrill of seeing Bruce or Arnold get their hands on a

fictionalized version right now. It would make me feel better. For now.



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