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First Lady To Support Concert That Counts

February 22, 1986|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

As of Friday, the two Live Aid entrepreneurs who are organizing the Concert That Counts were able to count on the support of both First Lady Nancy Reagan and Soviet television for their anti-drug rock benefit.

According to Mrs. Reagan's press office, the First Lady gave her blessing late Thursday to the April 26 concert. The 11-hour pop extravaganza is geared to fight drug abuse internationally through a live satellite broadcast to more than 150 countries around the world.

Thursday, the Soviet Union joined dozens of other countries that have already agreed to participate in the telecast of the show, featuring "drug-free" rock artists. The same Soviet television officials who tied in Moscow with video feeds of the Live Aid concert last July 13 telexed their support of this latest pop project to Marina del Rey-based Global Media Ltd., which has been organizing the effort since September.

Mrs. Reagan is expected to give her official endorsement of the concert in a White House press briefing on March 3.

It will not be until then that fans will learn whether superstars such as Madonna, Bob Dylan, David Bowie or Michael Jackson have actually promised to appear on the program, according to Global Media's Tony Verna.

A Global Media promotional brochure listed those artists and several more as "confirmed," "expected" or showing "strong interest," but a phone check with several of the artists' managers this week showed only some of them--including the Pointer Sisters and Toto--had made a formal commitment to appear.

Verna said that the First Lady would be given the most up-to-date list of confirmed rock stars to read for reporters at the press briefing.

"You take that away and what else is there (for Mrs. Reagan to announce)?" he said.

Verna and Global Media president Hal Uplinger (co-producers of last summer's international telecast of Live Aid) pinned their hopes several weeks ago on holding their show in Pasadena's Rose Bowl, but tussles between city officials and Rose Bowl area homeowners this past week have given them second thoughts.

"I'm not sure that it'll be at that site," Verna said in an interview Thursday. "Maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe those homeowners are right."

Verna secured tentative approval on Tuesday to lease the Rose Bowl from the city for $226,000, plus an undetermined percentage of Global Media's share of royalty revenues from Concert That Counts products and spinoff entertainment projects. The 5-0 approval by the Pasadena board of city directors--which acts as the city council--was loudly protested by several residents who live near the 105,000-seat Rose Bowl.

"I'm not out to persuade the homeowners necessarily," Verna said. "The Rose Bowl is my first choice because--have you seen it on camera? It looks good. The Coliseum people may not like that, but it's true."

Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Pontiac, Mich., Silverdome are also under consideration as alternative sites should Global Media fail to come to a final agreement with Pasadena.

Verna and Uplinger were also displeased that city officials leaked concert information--some of which they say was tentative and some of which they say was simply incorrect--to the press and the public.

The pair said that they had no estimate of how much the event will eventually cost, though they both said the figure that a city official gave as a per-ticket price for the concert was far too low to cover even a low estimate of the event's overhead.

The city official said tickets would be about $15 apiece, but Verna said the price would be closer to $35. Live Aid tickets sold for $35 and $50 apiece.

"It's only your gate and your corporate sponsors that are going to get you out," Verna said of the operating costs.

Global Media's shareholders have promised to underwrite the concert and to turn over all after-expenses profits to the Nancy Reagan Drug Abuse Fund and other anti-drug agencies.

Operating expenses appear to be substantial, even though the concert has an altruistic purpose. Unlike Live Aid, where all the artists donated their services, Concert That Counts acts will be paid for their performances, even though Global Media is attempting to get rock stars to lower their asking prices.

In addition, the televising of the show will be expensive. Uplinger, recalling the costs of internationally broadcasting Live Aid to an estimated global audience of 2 billion, said that the cost of renting satellite time for the show would have been about $5 million if Live Aid organizers hadn't been able to get much of the time donated. Even so, satellite time cost Live Aid about $200,000, he said.

Both Uplinger and Verna said that the anti-drug concert has been kept under wraps for the last six months so that Global Media would be able to make good on its promise to deliver a true mega-event, complete with superstars and international cooperation.

Rather than raising money, the chief purpose of the concert is to deglamorize drug and alcohol use by showing high-profile rock stars who do not use drugs, Verna said.

"If it's a rock concert, there is something very direct kids can identify with," he said. "A superstar stands on stage and says, 'Hey, I don't take dope. My guitarist did. He's dead, or he can't move right. . . .' Kids can see that. They can understand that."

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