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"TRIBUTE" REACHES, RAISES MILLIONS
Star-Studded "America: A Tribute to Heroes" Succeeds Emotionally, Financially
Superstars of the recording, film and TV industries came together Friday (9/21) to present "America: A Tribute to Heroes," a two-hour television extravaganza which raised more than $140 million for victims of the terrorist attacks on America through the United Way September 11 Fund.

The show’s performances will be collected for a benefit CD to be released by Interscope 11/15.

The telethon attracted a total of 89 million viewers (and an average of 59.3 million) on the nearly three dozen broadcast and cable networks airing the show, according to Nielsen Media Research. Media analysts said the audience numbers were particularly strong considering Friday is one of the weakest TV viewing nights. The telethon was simulcast on more than 8,000 radio stations and beamed to 156 countries.

Organized in less than a week, the show, which interspersed dozens of celebrities relating stories of courage and loss from the tragedies with moving musical tributes, was pulled off without a hitch. The show was steered by veteran MTV Movie Awards producer Joel Gallen, arguably the best at translating music to television, and the sound mix was superb.

Musical highlights included Bruce Springsteen’s moving "My City of Ruins," Neil Young’s stirring version of John Lennon’s "Imagine," Paul Simon’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Limp Bizkit joined by the Goo Goo DollsJohnny Rzeznick on Pink Floyd’s "Wish You Were Here," Enrique Iglesias’ "Hero," Mariah Carey’s "Hero" and Sting’s "Fragile." "Retired" French-Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion also sang a version of "God Bless America," and Willie Nelson was joined by a host of celebrities in L.A. for the finale, "America the Beautiful."

Other musical performers included U2, Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam with Young, Sting, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, the Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Faith Hill and Stevie Wonder.

Behind the scenes, egos were put on hold as nary a performer or presenter was accompanied by an entourage. Nearly all of the performers wore black, and the stages were lit with hundreds of candles, while none was identified on screen.

Actors such as Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Dennis Franz, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Brad Pitt also appeared, manning the phone bank. Perhaps the most touching presentation was delivered by Will Smith and Muhammad Ali. "I wouldn't be here representing Islam if it were terrorist," Ali said. "I think all people should know the truth, come to recognize the truth. Islam is peace."

Donations are still being accepted at the telethon’s website, www.tributetoheroes.org, and via phone at 1-866-868-6483.

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