NBC Universal is hastily organizing a one-hour telethon Friday to raise money for victims of the storm that has battered the East Coast.
Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together, airing live (with no audience) from Rockefeller Center Friday at 8 ET/tape-delayed PT, will feature a mix of electric and acoustic performances by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, Sting, Mary J. Blige and Christina Aguilera. Some have ties to the New York and New Jersey areas hit hardest by the storm.
Appearances by Kevin Bacon, James Gandolfini, Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon and news anchor Brian Williams are planned.
Today's Matt Lauer, who is hosting the broadcast, said in an interview that a Tuesday tour of a neighborhood in Rockaway Beach, Queens, after seven hours on the air, made him urge NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke to orchestrate the event.
That neighborhood lost 50 first responders in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; two months later, an American Airlines jet crashed there; now it's suffering again.
"I came back and said, 'We've got to do something quickly here,'" Lauer says. "I feared facing a period next week where the focus would be blurred. We've got an election coming up, and I feared people affected by this would be pushed to the side."
His first call to Burke came Wednesday at 6:45 a.m.; by 4 p.m., artists led by Bon Jovi had already committed. Williams personally called Springsteen, who's on tour. Both singers are from areas of the Jersey shore that suffered the worst damage.
Unlike many TV rivals, "we're a very New York-centered media company," Burke says, "and you can't live in New York without being struck by what a big thing this is."
Burke hopes to raise "tens of millions of dollars" for relief efforts. NBC backed a similar 2005 telethon, also hosted by Lauer, after Hurricane Katrina, raising $40 million. A post-9/11 telethon arranged by George Clooney, which aired on all the major networks, raised an estimated $200 million.
Friday's special will air on NBC, its owned cable networks including USA, Bravo, Syfy, E! and MSNBC, and on HBO, Discovery Fit & Health and Velocity, as well as Sirius XM Radio. It will also be streamed live on nbc.com.
Lauer says the special will include footage of the affected areas to help spark donations to www.redcross.org or (800) RED-CROSS. "But what's going to be most compelling is not me asking people to pick up the phone, but watching Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Joel playing their hearts out," he says.
Will Springsteen play 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), a 1973 song about a girl and the boardwalk? Lauer wouldn't say. But "the songs are going to be instantly recognizable."
Among other efforts, Disney ABC is donating $2 million to relief efforts and has designated Monday as a "day of giving" across its news and entertainment programming, which will encourage viewers to donate. Viacom, which owns MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Studios, is donating $1 million.