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Star Power Energizes 'Yes on 128' Drive : Elections: The environmental ballot proposition has drawn support from a larger, more diverse and more visible show-business set than previous California initiatives.

September 06, 1990|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Papers filed with the California Secretary of State's office, Peterson said, reveal that contributions from the entertainment industry have so far totaled $450,000, more than 25% of the total raised for the campaign. The funds raised to date by "Yes on 128" may appear substantial, Peterson said, but the campaign estimates that the "No" forces have amassed about $15 million.

Already, the campaign has benefited from a half-hour video, prepared by a group of celebs, that has aired on television and cable, including Turner's WTBS. Campaign officials said the video, which debuted at a Creative Artists Agency reception in Beverly Hills, has generated contributions that have more than covered the cost of making the video and buying air time.

The campaign also has raised money with three Los Angeles-area concerts: the kickoff show last November by Bonnie Raitt, a program in March by the Go-Go's, a concert in April reuniting Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (plus Don Henley) and a Sacramento show in June featuring Henley.

Earlier in the summer, a party for 300 people at Chevy Chase's home, co-hosted by Martin Short and Jeff Bridges with Kenny Loggins performing, raised more than $125,000. In June, such visual artists as David Hockney, Sam Francis, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari joined musician Stephen Bishop for an art-auction fund-raiser in Santa Monica.

Chase, who appears in the video, echoed the comments of several stars in a telephone interview. "When a person has the money and the ability as a celebrity to get to other voters through the media, it's the most important thing we can do. We can start the ball rolling and really make it roll."

That momentum continues next Thursday with the campaign's largest fund-raiser to date, at the Greek Theatre--the use of which has been donated by the Nederlander Organization, which leases the venue.

The program, "Friends for the Environment," bills Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Olivia Newton-John, Cher, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams--doing excerpts of their own material and reflecting on Prop. 128. The show, produced and directed by Jeff Margolis, will air Sept. 19 as an environmental special on ABC, minus the stars' campaign pitches for Prop. 128.

The concept for the Greek Theatre program was developed by Nancy Gould-Chuda, a former reporter with ABC's "Home" show and KABC-TV, who covered the 1989 Alar apple scare. That incident turned the reporter into an activist, and Gould-Chuda aligned herself with Meryl Streep's efforts against the chemical and in support of Mothers and Others for a Liveable Planet.

Gould-Chuda predicted the Greek Theatre concert would generate more than $500,000 for the campaign.

A month after the concert, on Oct. 11, Canada's Cirque du Soleil opens a monthlong Los Angeles stand with a benefit performance for Prop. 128.

For weeks, the "Yes on Prop. 128" committee has been airing ads that end with the required disclaimer about sources of support: "Major funding from . . . the entertainment industry."

On Aug. 23, "Yes on 128" supporters filed suit against "No on 128," charging that its ads failed to disclose who was backing its campaign.

The next day, "No on 128" pulled its ads for revision. According to the "No" campaign's Macdonald, the ads now begin with the disclaimer, "Major funding from chemical and allied products industry and other corporations."

The change is regarded as a minor victory by the "Yes" campaign, Peterson said. Their opponents, however, said they only learned their ads were in violation of state law when the lawsuit was filed.

"I'm puzzled by celebrity support for the initiative," said Macdonald. "In other states, celebrities have come to the aid of family farmers. In California, celebrities are attacking the family farm."

Macdonald charged that Prop. 128 would ban at least 40 chemicals that he said California farmers need, which in turn would drive up the cost of agricultural products to consumers. "I question how in touch these people are with family budgets," he said of the pro-128 celebrities.

Chase, however, sees the issue not about being for or against farmers or any other group. Rather, he said, it's an issue about the future. "We're worried about many cancer-causing elements in the air and food. And we're a little bit frightened."

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