You could call Gabriel Bologna the Bob Geldof of Beverly Hills High School; with friends he has organized a "Rock for Charity," a fund-raiser featuring eight local high school bands that he hopes will raise $2,500 for Jewish Family Service, a local family service and counseling center.
The concert is a program of the Political Idealists Club, a nonpartisan group of 135 students started by Bologna and fellow student Eric Dubin last fall. Its purpose, according to its constitution, is to "form the perfect medium in which to share and develop ideas relative to all issues facing humanity today."
'It's Not the Money'
"But it's not the money we're making," Bologna said philosophically of the benefit. "The money doesn't mean anything. It's who you inspire. The money will always be there."
The fund-raising event is one of a series of signs that political and social awareness may be budding again in local high schools, but with a focus of working within the system instead of against it.
The concert isn't the Beverly Hills group's first fund-raiser; 50 pounds of clothes were collected and donated to Ethiopian Jews and $50 was raised this year and given to the downtown Midnight Mission. They've had speakers from SANE (the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy), as well as the ACLU and Common Cause, a citizen's lobby group.
The rock concert takes place tonight at Bologna's Beverly Hills home. The living room has been stripped of furniture and outside is a homemade stage, one of two where bands will perform. "That's where we'll serve drinks," Bologna said, gesturing to a cabana on the other side of the pool.
This Live Aid on a miniature scale is being done with the blessing of his parents, actors Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna. "My parents are very supportive of me," he said. "We do disagree on some issues, but the thing is, I learn from them."
On a recent day Bologna has invited Dubin and two students from Palisades High School to talk to a reporter about common goals of political awareness and education. The following day the four would take part in a peaceful demonstration at the Federal Building in Westwood with some 100 students from other high schools to protest nuclear weapons.
Coco Weinraub, a 16-year-old junior, and Andrew Maharam, an 18-year-old senior, are founders of the Palisades Peace Club at Palisades High School, a 40-member group formed to educate students about the nuclear arms race.
'Apathy Still a Big Problem'
Two years ago Weinraub also started a similar organization, Youth for a Peaceful Future (not connected with the school), that has 50 members from several public and private Westside schools.
Despite support from students in the area who share common goals and ideas, "apathy is still a big problem," Dubin said. "With this benefit, I think that students will participate if they find it beneficial to themselves. And the best way to get to their hearts is through music. You can make them more aware of the issues."
"A lot of our members are not politically aware until they come to the meetings," Weinraub said. She added, "People have a preconceived notion about youth. We're trying to give youth a way to express the fact that they care."
The students realize they are not only battling stereotypes of apathy, but of wealthy backgrounds and a pampered life style.
"I think there's always a stereotype about Beverly Hills," said Beverly Hills High principal Sol Levine. "But as is true with all stereotypes, it's just that. I think when you talk to students, regardless of where they come from, the issues they are concerned about are issues all other students are concerned about."
Rather than deny or hide their backgrounds, the students use what resources they have to further their goals. Bologna got his parents to agree to the concert at the house; he was also part of a student trip to the Soviet Union. Dubin visited his girlfriend's family in Nicaragua last summer.
Levine has marked the evolution of the concerned high school student in the 17 years he's been a school principal (10 have been at Beverly Hills): "What I've seen has been an interest in the welfare of people. Other campus groups have been involved with humanistic things, like visits to the Veterans Hospital. This was the first year we had the start of political clubs on campus.
"But," he added, "if you're comparing the students' attitudes now and in the late '60s and '70s, they don't have the same overall level of interest or involvement in political issues. It doesn't compare in intensity and scope of involvement years ago, but the interest today is a very reasoned one, in the sense that the students are trying to help people. I'm not finding any strong anti-establishment feelings. The students are willing to use the proper channels to accomplish something."
Increase in Awareness