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Connick Captures Spirit of New Orleans as Industry Rallies to Cause

September 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans/When that's where you left your heart?

Those lyrics from the song "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," recorded by Harry Connick Jr., had special poignancy last week in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. No one was more visible in the recovery efforts than Mr. Connick. The singer and actor asked for donations to be sent to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the city where he grew up and where his father was district attorney for 28 years, until 2003. "Everything that I have professionally and so much of what I have personally is because of this great, fair city, and to see it being drowned like this is almost unbearable," he said on NBC's "Today" show. His voice cracking with emotion, Mr. Connick added that he had no doubt New Orleans would recover. "These people are freakishly strong and passionate about this city," he said. As soon as the disaster hit, Mr. Connick called NBC personally to offer his services and encourage the network to embrace relief efforts. He soon appeared from New Orleans on both "Today" and "Nightly News With Brian Williams." He continues to contribute special reports for NBC News and was scheduled to be a headliner, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and fellow Louisianans singer Tim McGraw and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, on an hour-long telethon, "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," which was scheduled to be simulcast last Friday evening on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and on Sirius Satellite Radio. -NATALIE FINN

Telethons And Network Events

Along with the rest of the nation, numerous show business figures and media companies have lent their support to aid the victims. In addition to the concert on NBC, all six broadcast networks agreed to simulcast a live one-hour commercial-free special, "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast," as a salute to "the brave citizens in the devastated areas" and to "rescue personnel guiding relief efforts in the region," according to a joint press release. Joel Gallen, who produced "America: A Tribute to Heroes" after the 9/11 attack on America, is producing.

Another effort is a special edition of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"-Ellen DeGeneres is a New Orleans native-to raise funds, scheduled to air today. The Warner Bros. show will match donations up to $50,000.

On Tuesday evening Jay Leno will have celebrities on "The Tonight Show" sign a donated Harley-Davidson motorcycle that will be auctioned off for the American Red Cross on eBay.

Viacom networks MTV, VH1 and CMT plan to do a telethon Sept. 10 featuring top musical acts, including Green Day, Alicia Keys and The Dave Matthews Band. Viacom's BET network will have a fund-raiser Sept. 9, hosted by Chris Rock and with appearances by Master P, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Simmons and others.

TV Stations

Numerous individual TV stations were raising relief funds and broadcasting public service messages, including WFAA-TV in Dallas, WISN-TV in Milwaukee, WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, KHOU-TV in Houston, WPLG-TV in Miami, KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, WNYW-TV in New York and WPTY-TV and WLMT-TV in Memphis, Tenn. The National Association of Broadcasters donated $1 million to the American Red Cross and designated Sept. 9 as Broadcast Unity Day, a day for stations to raise additional funds.


Actor Morgan Freeman organized an online auction (www.charityfolks.com) to benefit the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. … Singer Celine Dion, with partners Concerts West/AEG and Dragone, donated $1 million to the Red Cross. … Tennis star Serena Williams pledged $100 for every ace she serves for the rest of this year. … Tennis great John McEnroe pledged $25,000. … Actor Nicolas Cage donated $1 million to the Red Cross. … Actress Hilary Duff pledged $250,000, of which $200,000 went to the Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest, which is supplying food shelters. … Rap artists Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z together pledged $1 million to the Red Cross.

Media Companies

News Corp. pledged $1 million to the Salvation Army and will match employees' contributions. … Viacom donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. … The Walt Disney Co. gave $2.5 million. … Comcast Corp. and the Comcast Foundation donated $10 million worth of advertising time and $50 million in cash to the Red Cross. … Weather Channel gave $1 million to the Red Cross. … QVC pledged to raise $3 million for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. -NATALIE FINN, NATALIE VERDUGO and CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Liar's Poker?

A key to the success of Texas hold 'em poker on TV is that the viewer can see the two hole cards the player has been dealt. But what if the cards in the on-screen graphic aren't the same as what the player actually had? Apparently it can happen. When ESPN's "World Series of Poker" is shot, only the main table has cameras that show the hole cards. So to do analysis at other tables, ESPN sometimes relies on a player's honesty. (Professional poker players, who often love to bluff, can laugh now.) Last week Bob Chesterman, ESPN's coordinating producer, admitted the practice in an e-mail sent to players who questioned the production process. "In some cases, when we can trust the player, we ask them what they had afterwards," he wrote. That brought a caustic reaction from a fan on a poker message board: "Providing an accurate look at hole cards is vital to the show. Without hole-card integrity, ESPN poker is no more a legitimate sport/game than pro wrestling." An ESPN publicist, who apparently knows when to fold 'em, had no comment. -JAMES HIBBERD

Lucy & the Loudmouth

In her new book "Laughing With Lucy," pioneering TV writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, co-creator (with Jess Oppenheimer and Bob Carroll Jr.) of the enduring "I Love Lucy" series, recalls it wasn't all laughs. As the sole woman writer, one of Ms. Davis' unspoken duties was to monitor the star's wardrobe because, while Lucille Ball was a phenomenal talent, choosing stylish wardrobe wasn't among her gifts. One day, flummoxed over an unflattering skirt the star had chosen to wear in an episode, Ms. Davis pondered the awkwardness involved in telling another woman-particularly a TV mega-star-that her outfit was, well, ungainly. She decided a well-placed ally was the answer. So Ms. Davis approached the show's executive producer, Ms. Ball's co-star/husband Desi Arnaz, for an assist. To Ms. Davis' dismay, Mr. Arnaz reacted like a hapless husband instead of a diplomatic producer: He turned and called loudly to Ms. Ball in front of the cast and crew, "Honey, Madelyn thinks that skirt makes you look fat!" -TOM GILBERT