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Organizers Add Clout to 'Commitment'

October 31, 1987|JOHN VOLAND

There's one new wrinkle to the organization and marketing of Sunday's third annual "Commitment to Life" extravaganza for AIDS Project Los Angeles--and that's the clout of the bash's organizers.

In the past, event chairman Barry Krost has dealt with celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor in getting the big fund-raiser together. This year, he's letting some of Hollywood's major behind-the-scenes players--Warner Bros.' Mark Canton, Orion's Mike Medavoy and record/film mogul David Geffen--do what they do best: Make the deals and run the show.

This year's show at the Wiltern Theater will again feature such stars as Goldie Hawn, Madonna, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, who will either perform, present awards or plead for donations for AIDS Project Los Angeles, the city's largest AIDS relief organization.

But Krost said this year's "Commitment" reflects the general awareness that AIDS is an institutional as well as a personal matter, and the infusion of showbiz executives underlines a change of direction for AIDS Project Los Angeles, from its humble founding in crisis (when the staff was about a dozen people) to a more measured and more bureaucratic entity, with more than 80 people on staff. The organization now has a $9-million annual budget, up from a little more than $1 million four years ago.

"These (event chairmen) are people who not only wield great power themselves, but are regarded as responsible individuals as well," said Krost, who also organized the previous two Commitment to Life benefits.

In spite of the high AIDS-awareness profile of U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, both Krost and John Wolfe, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, remain bitter about what they see as the federal and state governments' apparent unwillingness to fund their organization or any other major AIDS relief entity.

"It's lucky for us we haven't run into any serious unwillingness (in the private sector) to give for AIDS research and relief," Wolfe said. "Because if we did, we'd be up the creek."

"And it's mostly the various entertainment industries that are listening and giving, because they've stopped denying the fact that AIDS could happen to them," added Krost. "Too many people they know and worked with have died."

Wolfe said eventually other sectors of American business would come around to full and public support of AIDS relief. "It's inevitable; the terrible part about banging the drum for funds is that the disease does most of that work itself. When someone you know dies from AIDS, you immediately become sensitized to the issue. That's why these celebrities were among the first to publicly come out and work for this cause. Unfortunately, unless a cure or at least a palliative isn't found soon, we'll have everybody banging the drum."

This year's Commitment to Life award will be given to Dr. Mathilde Krim, a Geneva-based biological research scientist who has founded two AIDS research organizations.

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