Two mammoth donations from two major stars--$1.25 million from pop music's Michael Jackson and $1 million from country music's Garth Brooks--have Los Angeles charity officials asking Hollywood a pointed question about its role in helping the city recover from last spring's riots.
Is that all there is?
In praising Jackson's and Brooks' generosity during an interview Friday, Herb Carter, president of the United Way of Los Angeles, noted that despite some optimistic early signs, the entertainment industry has made no concerted effort to help with riot recovery. Certainly nothing has matched such fund-raising events as Live Aid for famine relief and Comic Relief to help the homeless, as well as efforts raising millions of dollars to fight AIDS.
Many Hollywood potentates merit praise for their charitable deeds, Carter said, but "the more general social problems such as those underlying the cause of the L.A. riots are not things to which they've turned their attention."
"It is somewhat amazing," Carter added, "that here we are in the middle of the entertainment world and (apart from Jackson) none of those other individuals who are prominent have stepped forward in the manner that Garth Brooks did."
"It might well be they are waiting for someone to ask them," Carter said. "If that's the case, I'm asking."
Brooks' contribution, Carter said, is all the more extraordinary because the Oklahoma native does not live in Los Angeles. Brooks, who announced his pledge of $1 million toward riot relief last month, performed two benefit concerts Friday night at the Great Western Forum.
Shortly after the riots, many social service providers were impressed by the reaction of entertainment figures. Actor Edward James Olmos, a native of East Los Angeles, rallied people to start the cleanup, and concert producers talked about benefit performances.
But since then only a few such efforts have materialized, such as a concert last May at the Wiltern Theatre featuring Los Lobos, Tom Waits and Fishbone.
Brooks' $1-million contribution will be combined with $500,000 from the National Football League and $500,000 from the United Way to create a multifaceted community center for youths in South-Central Los Angeles. The "NFL/Youth Education Town," to be located in Gateway Plaza at Rosecrans and Central avenues, is intended to provide educational and recreational opportunities for children from Watts, Willowbrook, Compton and Lynwood.
Jackson announced Tuesday that his $1.25-million program will provide drug prevention, health and counseling services to inner-city children. The effort, Jackson said, is the first in a series of such urban projects sponsored by his Heal the World Foundation.
Brooks teamed up with the NFL on the endeavor after signing on to sing the National Anthem before Sunday's Super Bowl XXVII, said Reggie Williams, the NFL's director of community affairs for the event.
"Rather than just singing a patriotic song, he's doing something patriotic," Williams said. "He's asked for nothing in return. He's just really an amazing individual."