"Idol" charity show hopes to top $100 million
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" hosts a star-studded fund-raising special this week aimed at raising more than $100 million for children's charities in the United States and Africa.
"Idol Gives Back," which last year raised $76 million in the first mass fund-raising venture by a U.S reality TV show, airs a 2 1/2-hour special on Wednesday featuring performances and personal appeals from more than 50 of the biggest names in music, sports, television and politics.
"We're going to make over $100 million this year. I can feel it," "American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told the audience at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, where the special was taped on Sunday.
Disney teen sensation Miley Cyrus, rap star Snoop Dogg, singer Mariah Carey and past "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood headlined a list of celebrities who performed on the show.
Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appealed by video to viewers to donate via telephone or the Internet.
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to send in a videotape for Wednesday's broadcast, organizers said. His first submission did not meet technical standards.
English soccer star David Beckham, who now plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team, and Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant were among athletes involved with the campaign.
Irish rock star Bono and singers Alicia Keys and Annie Lennox were among those who traveled to Africa and impoverished areas of the United States to record moving stories of children afflicted by AIDS, malaria and hunger.
Actor Brad Pitt was greeted with screams when he showed up in person to promote "Make It Right," the Hurricane Katrina charity he launched in December.
Pitt's charity is one of six that will receive the donations from viewers and "American Idol" corporate sponsors. The other five are the Children's Defense Fund, The Global Fund, Malaria No More, the U.S. program of Save the Children and the Children's Health Fund.
"I think it is really important that 'American Idol' has tried to connect this audience to the reality of the world outside," Rajesh Anandan, a manager with The Global Fund told reporters.
"American Idol" started as a breezy summer talent show in 2002, but became a cultural phenomenon with almost 30 million viewers.
Mark Shriver, managing director of U.S. programs for Save the Children, said the show's reach across all demographics gives it substantial influence.
"It makes a big difference to our ability to raise funds and impact public policy in Washington and other U.S. cities," he said of the charity special.
The eight remaining contestants from this season of "Idol" performed during the special, but they were not judged for the competition.
They will compete in the show's next round on Tuesday. On Thursday, the pop hopeful with the lowest number of votes cast by viewers will be sent home.
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