A Saturday night-size crowd packed the Hard Rock Cafe on a recent Monday evening intent on more than the typical fare of burgers, fries, ice cream sundaes or a few beers. The music, loud as always, was similarly a sidelight.
The popular Beverly Boulevard restaurant's large draw was attracted by owner Peter Morton's decision to donate the entire day's revenue to Love Is Feeding Everyone, a local hunger-relief group.
A crisp business resulted in lunch, dinner and cocktail receipts totaling about $19,500--all of which will go to the charity.
The event also marked one of the few occasions when people brought food into a restaurant, rather than the reverse. The take-ins materialized because patrons were asked in advance to contribute non-perishable items to LIFE as part of an ongoing food drive.
A Novel Device
Morton's novel fund-raising device has been employed in the six other cities in which he operates one of the eclectically decorated restaurants. The first such venture was in 1976, when former Beatle Paul McCartney performed at the London Hard Rock to benefit a shelter for teens troubled with drug abuse. More recently, Morton held a grand opening party at his recently completed Houston outlet to generate funds for a children's home in Texas.
The decision to assist the LIFE group came after Morton researched the activities of several local charities.
"I just went around looking at the various agencies which distribute food to the poor," he said. "I was very impressed with the Spartan nature of LIFE. They seemed to be the best at getting the food going directly to the people without the donations being lost in a quagmire of bureaucracy.
"I wanted the money to get to the people because a lot of these charities have fancy offices and life styles that they want to maintain," he said. "Whatever LIFE receives (in donation form), 90% goes to buying food and getting it to the needy. There are no fancy offices, no high salaries, no bureaucracy--I'm very sold on that."
Boost From Celebrities
The LIFE benefit got a boost from the numerous TV and film performers who made an appearance at the restaurant. The food bank's founders, actors Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper, were also on hand to thank those in attendance, reminding people that the hunger problem is still very much alive and urging the predominantly young audience to get involved with the group's efforts.
"What this event does for LIFE is that it generates money to fund our programs. . . . But it also creates new support from the community and the city in general," Weaver said. "Having this event at the Hard Rock also reaches a new audience for us."
The large media turnout also, in turn, helped the LIFE group disseminate its message, said Weaver, who is hoping that others in the restaurant community will follow Morton's lead with similar functions.
"It's an exciting thought--that those in the feeding business can be instrumental in fighting hunger in this city and across the United States," he said. "I'm delirious about the results tonight."
Harper shared Weaver's enthusiasm and talked herself hoarse answering questions above the din of the restaurant's sound system.
"This event raises money and raises consciousness about the hunger problem," she said. "The media coverage also makes a tremendous contribution in keeping the issue on the front burner."
Channeled to the Needy
Harper stated that the Hard Rock contribution materialized, in part, because LIFE was originally organized, and is now administered, in a way that ensures the contributions are channeled to the needy and are not "lost" somewhere short of the goal.
"We're feeding 23,000 people a week now in the Los Angeles area," she said. "At the same time, we are designed to go out of business. Hopefully, that will happen as soon as people in the area become self-sufficient in food. Then we'll go onto something else."
In the midst of the festivities, Morton briefly addressed the crowd and admonished them to keep in mind the evening's objective.
"What I'd like to say is that there are people outside waiting to eat. So, please give them a chance by clearing away from your table when you're finished so that others in line can get in."
Explaining Shortages--Although there are numerous charitable agencies appealing for funds to fight hunger on both the domestic and international front, few offer a comprehensive program which explains the origination, scope and human toll of the problem to the public.
However, the San Francisco-based Hunger Project is now in its fifth year of presenting a two- to three-hour program on the complex issue to interested community groups or schools. In fact, the nonprofit organization recently announced that more than 500,000 people throughout the country had attended one of its Ending Hunger Briefings since their inception in 1982.
The sessions are conducted by the group's volunteers, who are trained to discuss numerous aspects of the topic, including population growth, the situation in Africa and areas where starvation and malnutrition have been eradicated.
For more information on arranging an Ending Hunger Briefing, contact the group at 1388 Sutter St., San Francisco 94109.