Benefit mania!

Readers respond to "Salt of the Earth," "Stop This Benefit" and "The Worst Benefit Concert Ever"


Salon Staff
October 24, 2001 11:00PM (UTC)

Read "Salt of the Earth," by Joan Walsh.

I had a difficult time figuring out what to make of Joan Walsh's piece, "Salt of the Earth." At first I thought it was condescending and half-insulting to the working-class heroes it pretended to be supporting. (Amadou Diallo -- it was a tragedy, but not a crime! You go get a gun and patrol the Bronx in the wee hours if you're not happy with the job they're doing!)

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However, she deserves credit for pointing out what many people haven't: That these often-derided blue-collar men and women are the ones who do the dirty work and usually are the first ones to suffer. I remember the feeling I had when I heard that most of Morgan Stanley's staff had survived. I was elated at first, but then my heart sank. What percentage of the first rescuers on the scene weren't so lucky? Anyway, it's great to hear FDNY and NYPD get such well deserved praise. But next time, please drop the pseudo-intellectual, liberal rhetoric. As a Long Island bred, Irish-Italian child of a working-class dad, I wish you'd stop making veiled apologies.

-- Kimberly Elliott

I applaud the music artists who have given generously of their time to raise money for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. I pray that each of them will be as generous in raising money for the victims of and refugees from American bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Canadian artists raised $1 million in one evening for the refugees. I pray for a similar effort in the U.S. and Europe.

-- Walter Rilkoff

Right on, Joan! Jim DeRogatis confirmed my suspicions about rock music critics with his asinine column. For the most part they are a bunch of elitist twerps who should get real jobs. Let the firemen and policemen have their fun, however politically incorrect it may be; they've certainly earned it.

-- Paul Sapko

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Next time Joan Walsh seeks "to check [her] luxurious left-coast snobbery" she should try just a bit harder.

Only the most luxurious East Coast elitist would confuse drunken boorishness with working-class authenticity.

-- Jason P. Mitchell

Joan Walsh does well to remind us to respect those that serve, and to check our own lofty ideals once in a while for relevance. Unfortunately, her modeling of this behavior comes up a little short. Yes, people can get drunk. Yes, people should celebrate heroism. Yes, we owe civil servants a debt of gratitude 365 days a year. But "kiss my royal Irish ass"? Grief might excuse bullheaded jingoism, but must we herald it as heroic? Is everything a hero does and says heroic? Don't vilify everyone on the left to make others seem heroic. That kind of help they don't need. Everyone knows that they are true heroes. Let's just not laud their drunken bullshit as an example.

-- Kevin Estes

Thank you for allowing Joan Walsh to respond to Jim DeRogatis. He just did not get it. She understood who the show was for and why they needed it. I have a number of friends who are cops and firemen. The strain that they have been under in dealing with unrelenting work loads, seeing the devastation up close and coping with the loss of their brothers has been wearing down the strongest of men. The sight of those guys and women cutting loose was the most rewarding aspect of the show for me. Those people needed a real party and they got one. Whether the show was an artistic success was not the point.

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As for DeRogatis' questioning the appropriateness of some of the songs played, why did he dwell only on the negative? First of all "Born to Run" is about escaping small town banality, running to NYC -- not away from it. Also, while criticizing the Who's choice of "Baba O'Reilly," how could he miss the added relevance of the line, "Won't get fooled again?"

-- Peter Gray

This is one of the most illogical, flippant and ridiculous articles I have ever read. Your argument reads as follows:

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Cops and firemen are bigots and racists but that is OK because they are brave.

All cops and firemen are Republicans, but that too is OK.

Ralph Nader, one of the biggest critics of the Clinton administration and hero of the working poor, has suddenly teamed up with Hillary Clinton as the representation of the careless left.

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This article is an insult to the hardworking firefighters and policemen who, like all Americans, come from every walk of life and carry many divergent views.

What you saw in that concert were people celebrating life, and the ethics of hard work and perseverance. They should be applauded. Please do not do them any more favors by calling them ignorant Republican bigots.

-- Michael Weaver

Thanks to Ms. Walsh for taking the piss out of Mr. DeRogatis, who had no business criticizing Saturday evening's benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. It's worse than cynical to belittle such a kindhearted gift of appreciation, especially since it was so obviously enjoyed by its deserving audience. For one night anyway a few famous folks were able to celebrate life and survival of a terrible horror with "regular" men and women who are infinitely more heroic just showing up to their jobs than any musician, or music writer, can ever hope to be.

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-- Brian Beatty

Everyone seems to be ignoring the extraordinarily vociferous booing that greeted Senator Clinton's appearance on stage, but for us who have always been leery of New York's uniformed servicemen and women, it was indicative of their blatant disrespect for anyone who they believe isn't on their team. No one is saying they aren't brave; that isn't the issue. The complaint is that their blatantly boorish behavior toward those they disagreed with at the concert is indicative of their dangerously disrespectful treatment of citizens they disagree with on the street. There's an e-mail going around the black community that says "328 firefighters were killed in the tragedy. Eleven of them were African-American. None of them were women. God bless segregation." It's a thought.

-- Wanda Steegmeister

Read "Stop This Benefit," by Jim DeRogatis.

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The booing of Senator Hillary Clinton by the crowd at the rock charity event taught me one thing: Being a hero does not protect one from lacking in class. A charity event attended by a woman who worked to get many of the senators down to ground zero to see the devastation firsthand deserved better, whether you like her or not, whether you voted for her or not. I mean, after all, look at how many of us are supporting President Bush right now, and most of us didn't vote for him. Publicly humiliating someone is not a trait of a hero.

-- Marie Dunson

I'm told Mr. DeRogatis is a critic with a small reputation for savaging most anyone and anything, and like so many critics he is always able to squeeze pus out of a sunny day if he tries hard enough. Reviews like this aren't about the event they are supposedly reviewing, they are about the critic showing us his arsenal of witty barbs and razors with which he can spill the blood of anyone -- firefighters who lost friends and family at the WTC, some still with bandages? Note to Mr. D.: They're just a bunch of drunken white trash at a tractor pull, why it's an outrage they were even allowed in the door, think of all the cleverly bitter critics who probably couldn't get seats.

-- D.G. Devin

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Wonderful objective appraisal of the shlock that was your N.Y. and D.C. benefit concerts. Down here in the land of Oz -- that's Australia not Kansas, Dorothy -- us poor Aussies have very limited and terribly biased news services that masqueraded these two events as typical slick Yank production whilst showing the common folk sharing their grief with the world's superstars. Don't get us wrong, we feel the most heartfelt of sympathy at the terrible and tragic loss of life that occurred, and believe wholeheartedly in the coalition's efforts to rid the world of these scumbags. However, I get the feeling that these concerts and ego-boosting nights of praise for a bunch of clapped-out and soon to be clapped-out five-minute wonders of the music business only portray your country to be a bigger bunch of wankers than the rest of the world already thinks you are. Spare us the ego, America, and get on with the job at hand. If Osama was watching I am sure he was pissing himself laughing.

-- Scott Challen

I find it amazing you did not mention the rude reception Hillary Clinton received from the firefighters and police at the concert. I do not condone that sort of rudeness, but I think it is news and your lack of report on this indicated your biased approach to the news. If Bush had been booed like that it would have been all over the news.

-- William L. Jones

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Reviewing the Concert for New York at all, much less on the quality of the rock 'n' roll, is pointless. "Stop This Reviewer" is more like it. The concert was unabashedly a party for the FDNY, NYPD, NY EMS and the city itself. Like the city, it was a mixed bag -- but at least it captured NYC's rowdy vulgarity and vitality. Did DeRogatis miss the point? Fuhgeddaboudit.

-- Rob Janes

Re your statement, "And it was certainly easy to dislike those heroic cops and firemen as they bum-rushed the stage to pay tribute to fallen comrades without once mentioning the thousands of dead office workers at the World Trade Center." The difference between the thousands of innocent office workers who died in the WTC attacks and the rescue workers who died is that the rescue workers rushed into the towers to save others and lost their lives doing so. It's sad that you can't see the distinction. When you first heard about the attacks, did you run down to the WTC to evacuate office workers? I didn't think so.

-- Rebecca Forman

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Stop Jim Derogatory!

In his ongoing efforts to be remembered as a critic, a completely laudable crusade, Jim has completely missed the ball in his latest rant against the pop world. I've read his clueless and inept columns and reviews for many years, dating back to my Chicago residency, but this column takes the cake and requires rebuttal.

In response to Paragraph 1, the people do give a fuck. I give a fuck about my neighbors, the family that lives upstairs, a widow and her two daughters that lost their dad the firefighter in the Sept. 11 tragedy. And it's not only me who cares; it's an entire city and nation that gives a fuck that the firehouse down the block lost 12 of its 15 personnel.

In Paragraphs 4 and 5, Jim adequately describes his preference for the first benefit concert. Both concerts raised money for the same victims, although the Oct. 2 benefit was pointless because Jim liked the music better the first time around. Ugh.

In Paragraph 6, Jim mistakenly identifies the second benefit of gross corporate sponsorship and overexposure. I seem to recall the first benefit was simulcast on all five networks, and many cable outlets, such as HBO. Wrong again.

In Paragraph 9, Jim decides to make fun of the attendees -- the firefighters, policeman and their surviving relatives. Classy move, Jim.

To answer the question in Paragraph 12, the purpose was to raise money for the victim's families. You know, the kids who now don't have any parents? Did you forget to look at the bottom of the screen the entire time?

Finally, Jim, you correctly identify the theme of the night in Paragraph 13. The show was to prove that it's OK to feel good again. The people of this city have survived an emotional and difficult time, one that has bonded us together as neighbors in such a way no World Series or Super Bowl ever could. And for many of us, there is a sense of guilt and second-guessing our actions as we try to find entertainment again in our lives. Last night's concert was for the survivors. And in pursuit to return to our normal lives, if not forever, at least a night.

But then again, Paragraph 14 quickly reminds us of the ass writing this column. What is your problem? Why was it so easy to dislike the police and firefighters who bum-rushed the stage? The concert was held in their honor and this was their chance to bask in the spotlight and rock out and feel good again.

--Jeremy Pickett

Kudos for smacking the entertainment industry. I purposely avoided the VH1 special. I realize people feel a need to contribute in some way, but I have dreaded these kinds of spectacles. I don't really care if Drew Barrymore cried, I don't care if Paul McCartney feels outrage. I wanna figure out how I feel first and foremost. These types of benefits stink of ego. The way American life has been changed in the last month makes you realize the insignificance of performers.

-- Lisa Waldron

"That the crowd cheerfully complied was irrelevant -- it would have been hard to find a rowdier, drunker, whiter, or more Irish group anywhere on television, outside of a monster truck or pro-wrestling match."

Amazing and shockingly insulting rhetoric; imagine if the same were said of a rap concert: "It would have been hard to find a rowdier, more stoned, blacker group anywhere on television, outside of a strip joint." I can hear the howls of racism from here.

I dare say a quick glance at the names of those firefighters and policemen who died at the scene of the WTC attack would probably yield, yes, a preponderance of white, Irish Americans.

Oh, well, obviously your writer is just a Hillary sycophant (fortunately for the rest of the nation, that number is dwindling) who didn't like having his girl booed. Buckle your seatbelt -- for you are about to witness to collapse of a political career.

I think I'll open a beer and watch the fun.

-- Susan Haughton

The guy who wrote the diatribe against the benefit last night has a long, lonely road ahead of him. I cannot believe his take on the whole thing. I turned VH-1 on to watch just to see what was going on about an hour in and I was hooked -- I recorded the whole thing and my (young adult) kids are in the family room watching it now. There was a terrific feeling of unity, people could express their love of New York, their love for this country, their love for the people who gave their lives and it was also a release for the grief we feel. I thought the music was great and obviously enjoyed by the policemen and -women, firemen and -women, family members of the victims ... you know, the white, drunk Irish audience your writer talks about. There will be many more "we love New York, we love America" concerts and rallies for many, many months to come. To you and your staff I send my deepest sympathy for the pain you are about to go through. You are irrelevant. Get used to it!!!!

-- Charlene Zdunich

Mr. DeRogatis, you are one of the biggest morons I have ever seen. I thought I knew stupid and insensitive. I was wrong. You have taken both of those and put them on a new level. Gee, let's not hold a benefit and try to raise America's spirit? No, that would be contrived. Who knows, maybe it could raise money? Nah, because no one cares. Thank God this is America, Mr. DeRogatis, where even the most mind-blowingly stupid, idiotic, and unpatriotic statements (yours come directly to mind) can be made without fear.

-- David Grossman

Ooof. Jim DeRogatis' review of the Madison Square Garden "Concert for NYC" was perhaps the worst thing I've seen Salon.com publish, and that includes the rants by David Horowitz. Bad idea to run this tone-deaf piece.

The Concert for NYC was simply what it was -- a well-deserved party for New York City police, fire and emergency personnel. The last thing the world needed to know was whether the show impressed DeRogatis.

Earth to cynical, jaded, pompous, pretentious, Nietzsche-quoting, pseudo-intellectual music critics who idolize Lester Bangs: Your world ended on September 11.

-- Gary Chapman

You could have saved editing time by simply stating "It was just too damned Republican". Sorry, but tossing about Nietzsche won't change our nation's fresh perspective.

-- R. Snell

How do I know Salon is biased? Why don't I trust its coverage of, well, anything? For starters, there's this nice tidbit, tossed into what is ostensibly a concert review:

"Like the food we're dropping on Afghanistan along with our bunker-busting bombs, the Concert for NYC was a pointless gesture that is only likely to backfire in time .... It was certainly easy to dislike those heroic cops and firemen as they bum-rushed the stage to pay tribute to fallen comrades without once mentioning the thousands of dead office workers at the World Trade Center, much less the innocents who are being killed along with the guilty as we wage war in the Middle East."

Yawn. Thanks for the pontificating. Jim DeRogatis: Entertainment critic by day, policy expert by night! Oh, and why do you neglect to mention perhaps the most interesting moment of the evening: the booing offstage of Hillary Clinton? Matt Drudge tells us all about it. Why don't you?

I guess I know the answers to these questions, but forgive me for indulging in the rhetorical query.

-- Joshua Trevino

Why no mention in your "review" of this concert of Senator Hillary's humiliation at the hands of real heroes (drunk though they may have appeared to your reporter, they still could recognize complete lack of class when it walked on stage)?

Kudos to the policemen, firemen and their families, for exercising their First Amendment right and for recognizing that Hillary doesn't give a f**k about New York.

-- Robert Hawkins

Reading this article reinforced the sick-to-my-stomach feeling I've been getting from America this past month.

Nowhere in the mainstream (read: corporate media) is there a mention of the despicable deeds perpetrated on millions of innocent civilians worldwide by the U.S. government. As one must always say at this point, I am not condoning the attacks on N.Y. and Washington, but it is disgusting that Americans are so ignorant of the atrocities committed in their name by their government in many, many other countries.

I also love the patriotism (read: jingoism, ignorance, superiority complex) that so many Americans have been quick to embrace. Why were they not exhibiting the same fervor when their sitting president was allowed to usurp democracy and appoint himself leader? Where was the outrage then? America has already lost the war on terrorism by allowing a self-serving, vindictive man to undermine the very freedoms they claim to be protecting now -- to rally around a man with the intellect of a 2-year-old, who invokes images from the Wild West, without once providing proof of bin Laden's guilt, is the most tragic outcome of 9/11. All that Americans are claiming to be fighting for they gave up willingly on 1/20/01. After your natural resources are decimated and your poor are much, much poorer, who will be to blame?

-- Cara Holt

Jim DeRogatis is correct to state that George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh did very little to help the people of India. That could be because Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) has never been a part of the independent Indian republic. I wonder how much Paul McCartney's recent benefit concert will help the people of Canada?

-- Girish Shahane

C'mon, Jim DeRogatis. Put your ever-hip hate and snide comments aside. My guess is that you were wearing the ubiquitous all-black uniform of the tragically cynical, pretending to be hip. It's not hip anymore. Your noxious comments belittle true expressions of caring. Put a little love in your heart. The world will be a better place. Imagine.

-- Neil Scott

In an effort to prove that the Concert for New York was a shallow, self-serving and jingoistic circle-jerk for the people of America, you quote Nick Tosches who had the insight to admit that, "Da people didn't give a fuck about Bangla Desh." I concur that the people of America "didn't give a fuck" about the people of Bangladesh and that, furthermore, they don't care about the other pet projects trumpeted by our favorite celebrities (AIDS, starvation in Africa). However, to compare the motivations of the audience at the Concert for Bangladesh to the attendees of the Concert for New York is to suggest that attendees and viewers of the Concert for New York didn't truly care about or grasp the consequences of Sept. 11. This is an outlandish assertion that fundamentally fails to recognize the degree to which the events of Sept. 11 have personally affected every American, and particularly the lives of the servicemen and women of greater New York.

You ask what was the purpose of all of this ballyhoo? To your apparent disdain, you discover that it was "to make the strong and the surviving feel good about themselves!" OK, fair enough. But what the hell is so wrong about that? Just what the hell is wrong with that?

After a month of mourning, fear, confusion and uncertainty, seeking some solace and a moment to appreciate the efforts of our police officers and firefighters strikes me as totally appropriate and perfectly reasonable. If the audience, and nation at large, was more in the mood for a six pack, rock 'n' roll and the camaraderie of their peers than a latte and poetry reading, then, yes, we are guilty.

But if it wasn't enough to express your stereotypical and elitist disdain for the audience at large, I find it profoundly disturbing that you find fault with individuals who were chosen to pay tribute to their fallen comrades. These are cops and firemen. They are not poets. They are not peaceniks. They are not politicians. They are men and women who have sacrificed a great deal and suffered terribly in the past month. That they failed to eloquently eulogize the "innocents" being killed in Afghanistan during their tributes to fallen comrades is perfectly natural. More likely, they still have the lives of their colleagues, family and 6,000 dead neighbors on their mind. What did you expect? Lastly, to share the stage with the colleagues, mothers, fathers, brothers and children of the individuals who sacrificed their lives on Sept. 11 seems far more poignant and significant to me than a teary-eyed tribute from Tom Cruise.

This event was designed to make people feel better, have a few beers, celebrate America and the lives of those who died in attack of Sept. 11. In my mind it was a success.

Might I suggest that you too get a six-pack of Budweiser and turn up some rock 'n' roll. You'll feel better. Really. If not, to paraphrase a fireman on Saturday night: You can kiss my royal American ass.

-- Jonathan Kalsched

Ay yi yi. If DeRogatis wants to tear into a bunch of aging hacks and complain that the Concert for NYC was a giant shlockfest, that's fine, but why sprinkle the piece --- which is ostensibly a critique of the musical performances, both individually and collectively --- with his own political views of how the American military response is misguided or futile? The end of the article, especially, sounded as if he had taken how-to-be-shrill lessons from David Horowitz. It takes some mighty big cojones to speak disparagingly of NYC firemen or cops in the current climate, but DeRogatis was apparently so offended by the perpetrators of this nauseating spectacle that New York's heroes got lumped into the "fair game for slamming" box. Even if you don't agree with the U.S. reprisals, what has that got to do with reviewing the admittedly cheesey benefit? I was looking forward to a good old-fashioned hatchet review (where the fuck is Cintra Wilson these days?) but instead I got this piece by DeRogatis.

-- Paul Linxwiler

I apologize to Jim DeRogatis on behalf of all the New York City police officers and firefighters who selfishly only mentioned their dead friends at this Saturday's Concert for New York City. I also regret that DeRogatis was stuck in a room with this motley assortment of humanity, whom he described as a "monster truck" or "pro wrestling" crowd. And though some of the people who were rescued by cops and firefighters in the World Trade Center may have a harder time finding it as "easy to dislike" these brutes as DeRogatis did, I support the writer in his odious classicism.

As soon as I get home tonight, I'm walking over to Ladder Company 63 near my apartment in Brooklyn and asking them whether they can broaden the scope of the memorial outside their firehouse. As it stands, the placard and cards are narrowly devoted to the eight firefighters they lost on Sept. 11. While we're talking, I'll see if they were at the concert on Saturday -- they might have been one of those guys hooting along with the Who or crying while James Taylor played. Maybe DeRogatis can recommend some independently released art-rock record; I'll bring it along, and show them the error of their ways.

-- John Frederick

Thanks so much for the honest piece on the latest "benefit" concerts. I found both of them to be self-serving and inappropriate. With his multimillions "Macca" would have done far more writing a personal check to support the families of the victims, but like his equally weasely plastic-surgery deformed enemy, the King of Pedophilia, he has new music to promote and check-writing doesn't accomplish that very effectively -- unless it's to an ad agency. Another detail to check into: Why did the D.C. benefit raise so much less dough than the NY gig? I'll bet any amount of money it's because Jackson took home an awfully big chunk for himself.

Sign me, "Too many years in the music industry."

-- S. McGuire

Jim DeRogatis' snarky criticism of the Concert for NYC bounces from sorta correct about the music itself, to a condescending smear of the honorees.

Perhaps they weren't wearing the right clothes, with the right body parts pierced. He needs to keep in mind that these guys do hellish work under bad circumstances. I don't begrudge them blowing off steam and celebrating the fact that they looked death right in the eye and came out OK on the other side.

The other casualties of the WTC were tragic victims. The NYPD and FDNY were intentional heroes. He needs to understand the difference. Or, next time his high-rise is burning and he needs emergency services he should call an artist or editor who he thinks will behave properly. Chances are, though, in that circumstance, they won't.

-- R. Craig Henderson

Of all places I would expect Salon.com to finally understand what Bruce Springsteen's song "American Skin (41 Shots)" is actually about. Instead in the benefit article Mr. DeRogatis gets it wrong once again:

The song is not cop-critical, repeat, is not cop-critical. I expect a much higher grade of reporting from Salon.com, not knee-jerk reaction as in the rest of the country when the song was never even released last year.

-- Steve Spohn

The misanthropic Jim DeRogatis, through his butter knife-sharp criticism in his review of McCartney's Concert for NYC, managed to prove only two things: That he is ignorant to a fault in topics lying outside the music genre, and that he is an elitist faux-intellectual with a distaste for middle America.

Demonstrating the former, DeRogatis impishly compares the effectiveness of a benefit for the entire continent of Africa (and thereby several hundred million people) with a benefit targeted at aiding at most a few thousand people. The criticism is invalid, asymmetric and a demonstration of his eagerness to denigrate this effort through a contortion of facts (or simple ignorance).

In fact, the article was littered with enough baseless criticism (yes, the al-Qaida group is well-known to follow American TV), that it is difficult or impossible to put faith in any of the potentially valid artistic critique it contained.

Speaking to his distaste for middle America, and his insensitivity to those who were most affected by this tragedy, DeRogatis may as well have called "white trash" the family and friends of rescue workers who filled the arena for the concert. Comparing them to a drunken crowd at a "monster-truck or pro-wrestling match" laid bare his elitist attitude toward mainstream America (those who primarily fight and die for us), as well as a lack of compassion that I find disgusting.

This combination of poorly constructed, baseless logic, with a class bias masked in a thin veneer of intellectualism, has produced a truly worthless piece of writing.

-- Brandon Reddener

Read "The Worst Benefit Concert Ever," by Eric Lipton.

Absolutely, positively, without a doubt the single best piece of reportage I've read since Sept. 11. So good, in fact, it's almost like Sept. 10 again. Thank You.

-- Jason Garthwait

I write for E! Online myself -- I wrote about Michael Jackson's Off the Wall Tribute show last month here in NYC -- and just wanted to drop you a line and tell you I'm glad someone finally had the guts to stick it to Michael. Enough ego-driven, crotch-grabbing madmen running around the stage. Enough pseudo-flag-waving (desecrating) bullshit. The victims of the Pentagon and New York deserve more. How does the King of Pop live with himself? (And what's with the fascist imagery in his videos too?) I hope when ABC re-edits (and boy, they certainly will) the disaster with fake applause and all, the network shows the world just how self-serving and thoughtless it, Jackson, Clear Channel and the rest really are -- how they can capitalize on such a tragedy as the 11th. And the sad part is you wonder if they've realized that. Probably not. But you did. Thanks for the hilarious article. I laughed my ass off.

-- Josh Grossberg

Eric Lipton's tragicomic review of Michael Jackson's benefit concert in D.C. serves both as a timely and necessary vent on the entertainment industry's inability to avoid self-promotion and glorification even in an effort to combat disaster and as a fitting mode of response. How silly it is that, in order for us to "benefit" our suffering fellow citizens, we expect in exchange to be delivered massive rock concerts or to be allowed to bid on eBay for a celebrity-autographed motorcycle. Why is it that, even in a time of crisis prompted by a radical cultural movement's perception of our society's greed and vanity we can't seem to avoid grandstanding, pointless and pointedly disrespectful flag-waving? Mr. Lipton's self-deprecatingly humorous approach to this sham is one I can really sympathize with. After all, you're either going to laugh or cry ... and if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Michael Jackson, of course.

-- Edward Tarl

Eric Lipton's description of the United We Stand concert was right on. I attended all 12 hours of the benefit show for the Pentagon victims and survivors. Having been 50 yards away from the actual impact site in the Pentagon, I really wanted to be part of something to bring our community together. The United We Stand concert was and wasn't that event. To be fair, the concert didn't have a lot of time to get organized, so I wasn't at all miffed about the sound trouble, or even the shortage of food. With the exception of Mariah and, dare I say, Michael Jackson, all the performers did really well. Especially Aerosmith, Al Green and that country kid (whose name I forget). P. Diddy also deserves kudos. But it isn't good when the audience leaves to Michael Jackson shooing us away so they can retape the terrible finale and, no doubt, splice our applause into the final cut. I had a great time, but still left with a bad taste in my mouth (which was obviously not due to the food). Would I go again. Heck yes, but I'd leave at 10 p.m. rather than 12 a.m.

-- Bill Plowden

What a disaster! What a shame! Never again would I attend something like this. If I had known in advance just how badly this would be organized I would have stayed home and just made a cash donation to the American Red Cross. At the least I would have taken my own food to the concert, knowing I would be there for 12 hours in a place that had no food, no water, no soda and ice while we had to sit in a stadium seat for hours on end entertaining ourselves. Also I could have done without the groups who came out lip-syncing without even an instrument onstage behind them to give the impression that maybe they really were singing. (Destiny's Child). I could go on and on but, oh well, I will let this go and remember it was all for a worthy cause.

-- Yvonne Blimline

I just have to say that this scathing, sarcastic review of Michael Jackson's benefit concert was one of the most mean-spirited things I have ever read in Salon. Good job!!!!

-- Scott Nahabedian

I was surprisingly pleased and amused to read Lipton's article "The Worst Benefit Concert Ever." It's about time we learned the truth behind some of these "benefits." I am appalled that such acts of bad taste (pushing new movies, TV shows and music and dragging the American flag across the floor) seem to come before the true cause of these programs! I'm also curious about how much money actually goes to the benefit being supported. Thank you for enlightening us all.

-- C. Stewart

Thank you so much for this article. The writing was fabulous and so funny. I nearly snorted Diet Coke out my nose several times. It was just what we needed to read now that these celebrity benefits are starting to become annoying, not uplifting.

-- Diana Murphy


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