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"I am heartbroken by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in my home state."
——Tim McGraw
UPDATE: MUSIC AND SHOWBIZ FIGURES PLAN HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF BENEFITS
Superstars and Up-and-Comers Step Up to Aid a Devastated New Orleans and Gulf Coast
As we all watch in disbelief at the horror and devastation that Hurricane Katrina has unleashed in New Orleans—one of the greatest music cities in the world—musicians and other entertainment figures are stepping up to the plate, planning benefit shows and programs to aid the Louisiana residents (most via the American Red Cross) displaced by the storm.

In late-breaking news, it appears that NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, the WB and UPN are planning to join forces for telethon to raise money for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, according to a Reuters report. The live special, which is expected to be an hour in length will feature musical performances juxtaposed with appearances by various celebrities, following the template set by the post-9/11 telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes, which aired on all six major networks. Louisiana native Ellen DeGeneres is said to be interested in hosting the program, but no artists have yet been booked, and no air date has yet been set. 

As previously noted in Rumor Mill, MTV, VH1, and CMT have announced a multi-artist, multi-genre live benefit concert special set to air across all three networks on Saturday, Sept. 10. The special will seek to raise funds for the Red Cross and similar organizations. It will air from New York, L.A., Atlanta and Nashville and feature Ludacris, Green Day, Gretchen Wilson, Usher, Alicia Keys, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews Band, Rob Thomas, David Banner, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and more to be announced. Viacom, MTV Networks' parent company, is making a $1 million cash contribution to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Effort and is also instituting a worldwide employee matching gift program for employee donations. The total value of the various efforts, including donated airtime and ad space, is estimated to total tens of millions of dollars overall.

CMT, VH1, and MTV have also initiated an awareness campaign to provide information to viewers on how to get involved and participate in the relief efforts. Viewers and users are being directed to Websites and numbers where they can make donations of money, clothing, equipment, and anything else that may help the affected areas  MTV News will air a special on the hurricane relief efforts this Saturday, featuring news correspondents Gideon Yago, Sway Calloway and SuChin Pak filing from the hardest-hit areas. 

NBC Universal has organized a benefit concert, titled  A Concert for Hurricane Relief, that will air tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. The special will broadcast live in high-definition on the East Coast from NBC's New York studios in Rockefeller Plaza and air on tape delay on the West Coast. Similar to past televised benefits to aid the 9/11 and last year’s tsunami victims, the concert will feature performances by New Orleans natives Wynton Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., as well as Tim McGraw, who hails from Stark, Louisiana. Movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio will also appear to ask for donations and Today Show host Matt Lauer will serve as the host of the event. More stars are expected to be announced before the show airs.

All funds raised will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which will provide potable water, food, counseling and shelter, among other necessities. Throughout the telethon, viewers will be encouraged to donate by calling 1-800-HELP NOW or via the Web at www.redcross.org.

"I am heartbroken by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in my home state,” McGraw said in a statement released in conjunction with the benefit’s announcement. “Like so many Americans I am watching the news reports with great sadness. But it's at times like these that each of us must work together to provide lifesaving aid to those in terrible need.”

The Dave Matthews Band, meanwhile, have announced that they will do a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Monday, Sept. 12. The concert, which is receiving official support from the city of Denver and the Mayor’s office, will follow a stint of three already sold-out shows by the Matthews Band. The city and county of Denver, which owns and operates Red Rocks Amphitheatre, will donate any revenue it derives from parking, food, beverage and merchandise commissions to the hurricane relief effort. Additionally, the City has agreed to waive the rent for the benefit concert—a significant savings that will mean more money for the Katrina victims.

Aramark Corporation, the food, beverage and merchandise concessionaire at Red Rocks, will donate all of the net proceeds from the September 12 concession sales. Its affiliate, Aramark Housekeeping Services, has also agreed to donate the maintenance services associated with the concert. Contemporary Services Corporation will donate the personnel services of its ushers, ticket takers, parking attendants and security. Ticketmaster and the band’s own direct ticketing company, Musictoday, will be donating their applicable service charges per ticket. And the Conscious Alliance (www.ConsciousAlliance.org) will be hosting a food drive all four nights of Matthews shows at Red Rocks to benefit the Houston Food Bank and its efforts to feed people affected by Hurricane Katrina (www.HoustonFoodbank.org).

Current chart topper Hilary Duff has announced she's donating $200,000 to the Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest, which is supplying food to the shelters housing all the homeless victims from the tragedy. In a statement, Duff said, "It's heartbreaking to see the devastation on TV. People are missing family members, and they have absolutely nothing left, not even food or water. I want to do everything I can to help those who have survived to help rebuild their lives."

Celine Dion just announced she will donate $1 million to the American Red Cross, as are Jay-Z, Sean Combs and Chris Rock. And Barry Manilow is using his own benefit organization, Manilow Fund For Health And Hope, to raise money. For every dollar donated, the fund will match a dollar—plus, Manilow himself will match it as well, turning one dollar into three—with plans to raise $150,000 immediately Donations can be made online at www.manilowfund.com.

It appears that all kinds of artists—both superstars and up-and-comers—are pitching in. Biloxi residents and Republic/Universal band 3 Doors Down have begun a food drive at all of their shows to help the relief effort. Jive Records band Bowling for Soup held a benefit gig on Monday night in Shreveport, Louisiana. Classic rockers Grand Funk Railroad, Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer are scheduled to headline a “Harley Charley” hurricane benefit concert at Florida’s Port Charlotte Stadium Saturday evening. Dozens of similar benefits are expected in the coming days and weeks—and it’s hard to imagine that the Stones and Paul McCartney won’t do something during their fall tour to help a city that influenced both of their own music so much.

In other disaster benefit news, the BET television network is teaming with the National Urban League and the American Red Cross for another telethon effort, scheduled to take place on Friday, Sept. 9. Wynton Marsalis, Russell Simmons and Jay-Z will be on announcing details of the show at a press conference scheduled for later today. Chris Rock is one of the artists definitely set to appear. Rap producer Master P, whose parents and other relatives live in New Orleans, is also reportedly coming up with a relief program, details of which will be announced shortly.

Motown artist—and Mississippi native—David Banner is set to headline a hurricane benefit concert to take place this Saturday at Mississippi's Jackson Coliseum. Also performing  will be Twista, 8Ball & MJG and other Southern artists. All proceeds will go towards helping the many displaced residents of the disaster-stricken area. Trisha Yearwood has announced she will perform a special concert on NBC's The Today
Show
tomorrow morning to honor the hurricane victims. The multi-Grammy winner will sing her hits "The Song Remembers When,” "Thinkin' About You" and her current single "Georgia Rain."

Not to be outdone by the music stars, actor Morgan Freeman is helping to organize an online auction that will open tomorrow on the Charity Folks auction site (www.charityfolks.com) and run until Sept. 16. Among the numerous items being auctioned is a chance to attend Freeman's upcoming movie premiere for An Unfinished Life, which co-stars Robert Redford and Jennifer Lopez. Proceeds will go to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Ellen DeGeneres, a New Orleans native, has launched a fundraising organization, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund" on her talk show which debuts its new season this Monday. For the kids, Sesame Street Workshop has updated its Website to provide parents with guidance and tools to help children cope with the tragedy. PBS stations will also re-air Sesame Street's hurricane series and related public service announcements starting Sept. 12.

Last but surely not least, Jerry Lewis has announced that his annual Labor Day Telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association will also feature celebrity fund-raising appeals for the Katrina relief efforts. The MDA plans to donate a whopping $1 million of its funds to hurricane victims.

The following organizations are all helping with—and accepting donations for—the relief efforts:

Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW

Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY

Catholic Charities: 1-800-919-9338

Jewish Federation of St. Louis: www.jewishinstlouis.org

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