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2001-Oct-19: The Biggest Benefit Concert Ever

The story goes that Sir Paul's idea to perform a benefit concert for New York city's firemen and rescue workers grew into the mega-Concert for New York City the moment Miramax Film's Harvey Weinstein became involved.  How did this come to be?  It seems it happened on September 23 when Harvey Weinstein flew Sir Paul from New York to London aboard a Disney corporate jet. (Sir Paul and Harvey Weinstein have been friends for 20 years.)   By the time they were flying over Greenland, Sir Paul had agreed to headline the concert.   According to James L. Dolan, the president of Cablevision and chairman of Madison Square Garden,  "Harvey basically got on a plane with Paul McCartney and wouldn't let him off the plane until Paul said yes."  John Sykes, president of the VH1 cable network adds, "I was at a Viacom staff meeting and I got a note: Harvey Weinstein and Paul McCartney on line 2.  They had just landed, and Harvey made him go to a phone right there on the tarmac." "After Paul agreed," Mr. Weinstein said, "there was a dam burst."

With top tickets for tomorrow's performance selling for $10,000 (the best seats, however,  have been given to rescue workers and victims' families) the concert is expected to raise tens of millions of dollars.   In addition, Sony's Columbia Records will release a double CD recording of the event which will go on sale Nov. 27, with a concert DVD to follow.  In addition, eBay will auction concert memorabilia, including T-shirts, programs, autographed guitars, and signed stage clothing. With the sale of the concert album and DVD plus the international and network licensing,  T-shirt and memorabilia sales, this will be one of the most profitable benefit events ever held.

Corporate jets have been in almost constant motion during the last several days, bringing in celebrities from all over the world. "We're running the biggest private air force in America," Mr. Weinstein said.  Once the concert begins, 18 musical acts and 21 other events are planned, a lineup requiring 850 staff members backstage. Seven of the more exclusive New York hotels are donating hundreds of suites, and 60 limousines and private cars have been put on call to transport performers to and from Madison Square Garden. Not surprisingly, a larger-than-normal security presence is planned, and although officials will not comment on specifics,  500 armed police have been drafted to guard around the venue.  Madison Square Garden, by the way, has had only two days to prepare for the event.  Over 200 workers are busy building a stage over the ice rink that is currently being used for the New York Rangers hockey games.

Saturday evening's performance will begin with an all-star version of David Bowie's "Heroes" at 7 p.m. The music is not expected to end before midnight.  Presiding over it all will be Sir Paul himself, whose finale will include a trio of Beatles songs, a new song called Freedom, and his new single, the proceeds of which will also benefit the relief effort.  According to  John Sykes, "This will be a loud, loud rock concert."

Sir Paul has stated,  "It's going to be an emotional night for us. It's going to be emotional just looking at all the firemen and emergency guys in the audience and knowing what they and their families have gone through."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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