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ON THE RADIO

Broadcast Benefit For Africa

April 23, 1985|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

The "Radio for Africa" bar and buffet opened at 11 a.m. Sunday--a full hour before the beginning of the three-hour live "Radio for Africa" all-star benefit broadcast to help alleviate African famine.

Entrees included tortellini stuffed with veal and chicken and cooked in a wine sauce, or fresh pasta simmered in Italian tomato sauce and herbs.

Platters of fresh melon, pineapple, bananas and other Third World fruit were done up in an Ethiopian motif, complete with exotic flowers and the crowning touch of papyrus sprigs sprouting from the middle of each sumptuous tray.

"We felt there would be a lot of hungry people, so the least we could do would be to feed them," explained Westwood One founder Norm Pattiz, who put the final catering bill at about $8,000.

The irony that his catered all-star "We Are the World" radio program, produced at Westwood One's Culver City headquarters, was to aid the starving millions in Africa was a fact that Pattiz had not overlooked.

He acknowledged that such a display of munchies on the dusty streets of Addis Ababa would probably cause a food riot.

But he made no apology for feeding well-fed reporters or visiting rock luminaries, such as Lindsey Buckingham or Graham Nash either.

Pattiz simply pointed east, to Las Vegas, where the National Assn. of Broadcasters met last week during its 63rd annual convention. For four straight evenings, 35,000 of the least needy citizens in the land inhaled hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of dollars worth of catered morsels in NAB hospitality suites, Pattiz said.

NAB gluttony is in the name of broadcast profit, he pointed out. Westwood One's regal repast was for charity.

Indeed, pre-broadcast ad revenues for the anti-famine program totaled $200,000. The hodgepodge of music, interviews and oft-repeated requests for contributions was simulcast to a potential audience of 20 million over 505 stations in at least seven countries, according to Westwood One spokesmen. Its final impact won't be determined for several weeks, after donations are tallied, but the radio network hopes to top the $1-million mark in contributions.

Throughout the radiothon, interviewers who included radiothon anchor Scott Shannon, Dick Clark, Mary Turner and Casey Kasem, all urged listeners to send letters of support to the USA for Africa Foundation. The correspondence will be bagged and carried to Congress in mid-May in an effort to raise the U. S. government's contributions to African relief efforts, according to USA for Africa executive director Marty Rogol.

Rogol and USA for Africa founder Ken Kragen estimated that foundation assets had ballooned to about $36 million by Sunday.

Shannon's other in-studio guests were chiefly recording artists, ranging from Smokey Robinson to Pat Benatar. Predictably, pop stars used much of their air time to plug pilot TV shows, albums and upcoming personal appearances.

But the survivalist synergy that has powered the USA for Africa movement from its inception last Jan. 28, when 45 pop stars recorded "We Are the World," was also in the air.

Satirist Barry (Dr. Demento) Hansen set aside humor for the day.

"They asked me not to be funny and I think they're right," Hansen said soberly. "Being funny doesn't mix with this."

The mini-cam crews, publicists and reporters who had all gathered for the satellite simulcast even heard a message from President Reagan lamenting the plight of the hungry in Africa.

Harry Belafonte and John Denver, who both had visited Africa, spoke eloquently of death and catastrophe. Rod Stewart and Herb Alpert, who had not been there, echoed the cataclysmic warning in the lyrics of "We Are the World": that to choose not to give is indirectly to choose suicide.

By the time it was over at 3 p.m., most of the catered food was still on the counters.

The invited guests, it seemed, had lost their appetites.

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