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
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.