Comedian Billy Crystal called it “Woodstock for really, really rich people” as Hollywood’s artists came out to raise $5 million to put Democrat John Kerry in the White House.
“A presidential candidate needs all the friends he can get, even if they come from show business,” said actor Ben Affleck, opening Thursday night’s star-studded concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond performed their 1978 hit “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” together for the first time in 24 years. Streisand also sang a special 2004 election version of her song “People.”
The song poked fun at White House figures including President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, “the spookiest person in the world.”
“Just wait ’til the White House stationary reads president John Kerry,” she crooned. “We’ll be the luckiest people in the world.”
Other performers included actors Ben Stiller, Esai Morales, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and singers Willie Nelson and Angie Stone.
Ticket prices for the evening started at $2,000 for the concert up to $25,000 per couple for the concert and a pre-show dinner for about 450 people, including the celebrities. The concert was sold out, although many donors didn’t attend.
'Four months to undo four years'
Kerry closed the concert by urging the crowd to work for a change in leadership. “There are four months to undo four years and prevent four more,” he said.
Affleck suggested he would be campaigning for Kerry in the lead up to the convention as he declined to name a favorite pick for Kerry’s running mate.
“I assume it’d be bad for me if I say some name that’s different from the guy whose hand I’m gonna shake in three weeks when I’m like, running around Pennsylvania,” he told reporters outside the concert hall.
Nelson told reporters he likes North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. “I think he’s a good guy, from the south, a lawyer. I forgive him for that.”
Crystal delivered a 15-minute standup routine where he made fun of both sides of the presidential race. Of Bush, he said, “We have got to get the White House back from a president who believes now the doctrine of pre-emption — hit them before they hit us. Apparently, he started this when he was driving in the ’70s.”
Most in the crowd laughed at Crystal’s reference to Bush’s drunken driving plea in 1976, although some good-naturedly booed his shot at the president. “What?” Crystal said “You like him? Why are you booing me?”
'Ed Muskie's stunt man'
Crystal said when he met Kerry, his first impression was, “could be Ed Muskie’s stunt man.”
“People say he doesn’t smile, he’s not happy enough,” Crystal said. “I kid him a little bit. I said, ‘Listen, you’re the front-runner, the polls are up, you’ve raised $200 million. If you’re having a good time, tell your face,”’ Crystal said.
The crowd roared with laughter, no one more than Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, who bent over laughing and slapped the partition in front of her seat with both hands.
“I’m having fun,” a smiling Kerry told Crystal at the end of the show. “And my face got told.”
The $5 million raised will be divided between Kerry’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as will funds raised at a second concert in New York City on July 8. The New York concert will feature the Dave Matthews Band, Mary J. Blige, John Mellencamp, Jon Bon Jovi, Wyclef Jean, Whoopi Goldberg and others.