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Hollywood and the Homeless: A Proposition? : Concert Tonight Launches Show-Business Move to Put Initiative on '88 Ballot

November 24, 1987|JANE LIEBERMAN | Lieberman, a USC graduate, is a Times intern. and

If there's a Proposition H on next November's state election ballot, it could easily stand for Homelessness, Hunger and Hollywood.

Californians Working Together Against Hunger and Homelessness, a consortium of entertainment and business leaders headed by State Board of Equalization Chairman Conway Collis, kicks off a drive to put the homeless issue on the state ballot with a benefit at the Universal Amphitheatre tonight at 8:15.

The nonprofit group hopes to raise $150,000 from ticket sales from the appearances of the pop group Chicago, singers Michael McDonald and Belinda Carlisle and comic Cheech Marin, who are donating their time. According to Collis, the consortium will need about $350,000 to collect the 373,000 signatures necessary to put an initiative on the California ballot next year.

Charity concerts and mega-events such as the much-publicized Hands Across America and Comic Relief efforts are nothing new. For several years, entertainers have danced, sung and acted against hunger. As recently as Saturday, pop vocalist Graham Nash organized and headlined a national radio rock "Hunger-Thon" that raised more than $260,000 to aid the hungry during Thanksgiving.

But, according to Collis, the concert is the first time that Hollywood has seriously attempted to meld the issues of homelessness and hunger with the political process.

Since it was first created last January, Californians Working Together Against Hunger and Homelessness has devised a 40-page draft of an initiative that would impose fines for serious health, safety and building code violations in the state. It is unknown how much money the fines, which would be imposed in much the same way as traffic tickets, would raise.

Without raising anyone's taxes, Collis said, the state would have a pool of cash to offer assistance on health, nutrition, job counseling, shelter, child care and rents for the homeless.

MCA Records President Irving Azoff sits on Collis' advisory board, along with such people as First Nationwide Bank chairman Anthony Frank and Patricia Duff-Medavoy, wife of Orion Films executive Mike Medavoy.

Collis said the initiative "provides a direct statement" for the homeless problem. "That's what I think attracted performers."

"Although Chicago will always be our home, Los Angeles is our city now," said Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine in a telephone interview. "I felt this cause was something very community-oriented that would allow us to stand behind what we say in our music."

"Most of the homeless are my relatives," deadpanned Cheech Marin in a separate phone interview. "The homeless issue is something that will be here for a while. The best thing would be to get them a home."

But Belinda Carlisle was attracted without knowing anything about the initiative, according to her manager, Ron Stone.

"Belinda committed (to the project) because she needed to be involved in the issue, but wasn't sure why this particular benefit, over any other, would provide a solution to the homeless issue," Stone said.

City Attorney James Hahn, who prosecutes code violators, doesn't see the initiative as a panacea, but said it should be more beneficial than a one-time benefit concert.

"I don't know how much the initiative will raise, but if any, it will be a significant contribution to provide more money to deal with the chronic (low-income) housing shortage for the homeless," Hahn said.

Hahn was consulted in the drafting of the initiative.

"If we took all the proceeds from the concert it would be gone in about 10 days," Seraphine said.

Although the initiative needs 373,000 signatures to qualify for a place on the ballot, Collis said he hopes to collect 650,000 because he wants to be sure to have enough qualified voters signed up before the April, 1988, deadline for all November, 1988, ballot initiatives.

The consortium has contracted with a professional signature-gathering firm, Kelly & Kimball, to check the validity of voter signatures and to supervise volunteers helping to gather signatures. The consortium has agreed to pay the firm $300,000, and Collis estimated an additional $50,000 would be needed to coordinate volunteer support.

"An effort like this is basically like pushing a big boulder off a hill. The concert helps give that boulder a shove. . .and will help us get rolling," Collis said.

"Our efforts are a far-reaching attempt to put in a large amount of money into the pipeline regularly. Hopefully we can alleviate the pressure from some of these other groups who have to come up with private donations annually," said Patricia Duff-Medavoy, who is coordinating sales of special $250 Golden Circle tickets for the concert.

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