Show business, politics and charity will converge in Los Angeles Tuesday in a Star-studded benefit show to aid the people of Cambodia and Southeast Asia.
Producers, writers, directors, actors and singers are contributing their talents free of charge, and the two-hour production will be videotaped by CBS-TV for broadcast on Feb. 5 at 9 p.m.
Proceeds from the event will go to Operation California, a controversial private relief organization of about a dozen volunteers that within the last six months has sponsored four airlifts of foodstuffs and medical supplies to Southeast Asia.
The show is being organized by Blake Edwards and Tony Adams (who produced the movie "10"); Grant Tinker, president of MTM Productions; Robert Fryer of Marble Arch Productions, and Marty Pasetta, who directed the Academy Awards shows for the past several years.
Among those slated to perform are: Alan Alda, Julie Andrews, Ed Asner, Debby Boone, Carol Burnett, Glen Campbell, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, John Travolta, Kris Kristofferson, Dudley Moore, Mary Tyler Moore, the Muppets, Peter Paul and Mary, Carl Reiner, Robert Goulet, the Jacksons and David Steinberg.
The idea for the benefit came from Julie Andrews, her husband Blake Edwards and his associate, Tony Adams, after the three met with Operation California's organizer.
At the same time, Grant Tinker of MTM Productions had been speaking to CBS entertainment division president Robert Daly about doing programs about refugees in Southeast Asia. Tinker met the Edwards group; then, in Adams' words, "we took a meeting with CBS and they bought the show."
Once organizers could say that Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore (tinker's estranged wife and business partner) had committed themselves, it was easy to sign up other performers, says Adams.
John Travolta will be appearing even though he has turned down many similar requests in the past, according to Adams. The Muppets will be taping a scene in London for inclusion in the program. And Alan Alda and Mary Tyler Moore recently taped a scene depicting an exchange of letters between a soldier and his wife over a period spanning several wars.
While the talent was being recruited, Adams and Tinker set out to assemble an honorary committee in support of the program. They succeeded in getting California Gov Jerry Brown, Ronald Reagan and Sen Edward Kennedy, as well as a host of cause-oriented celebrities, including Hugh Hefner, Jack Lemmon and James Stewart. "We call it our 'credibility committee,'" said Adams.
The program, entitled "Because We Care," will be staged at the Los Angeles Music Center before an audience that will be asked to pay from $15 to $1,000 a seat. Once production costs are subtracted, the monies from ticket sales, together with the more than $1 million CBS is paying for the show, will go to the International Rescue Committee, the relief organization which works in cooperation with Operation California. Additional revenue is expected from sales of a possible record album of the production and an appeal contained in national newspaper advertisments plugging the event. In all, Operation California is aiming to net $1 million from all sources.
Although no one has disputed Operation California's humanitarian intentions and accomplishments, the group has become the subject of some controversy after a running battle with the U.S. State Department, a campaign appearance by Jerry Brown and the alienation of another relief agency.
Operation California was organized by two former anti-vietnam war activists and associates of Brown -- Richard Walden, 33, a Beverly Hills attorney and Brown appointee to a state hospital regulatory commission, and Llewellyn Werner, 30, a long-time aide and troubleshooter for Brown who is now a student at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Walden and Werner have amazed experienced relief agencies with their understanding of bureaucracy and ability to get things done. They have begged and cajoled donors ranging from oil companies to pharmaceutical firms, and have maneuvered their supplies through a labyrinth of red tape stretched around the globe.
Eagar for publicity, they carefully cultivated reporters and photographers, offering free trips on their flights to Southeast Asia. "This is an adventure," Werner excitedly told one photographer who accompanied them on their trip to Malaysia.
Their often less-than-diplomatic methods as well as their political connections have been privately criticized by other relief groups. One, the American Friends Service Committee, which cosponsored the Thanksgiving Day flight to Cambodia, afterward decided to sever relations with Operation California.
"It's never been our style to grab media attention," said Kitty Barragato of the Quaker group, which is accustomed to more conventional methods.
From the beginning, Walden and Werner downplayed their political associations and their relationship with Brown. But politics was never far removed from the effort.
After clearance had been obtained to land an aircraft in Cambodia (whose government the United States does not recognize), Operation California organizers asked that the State Department pay for the cost of the flight. The request was backed up by a letter on behalf of Operation California signed by 69 congressmen.
The U.S. government (which has pledged $105 million to international relief organizations) turned down the request, saying that the cost of transportation would have to come out of funds allocated to those international groups such as the United Nation's Children Fund and the International Committee of the Red Cross, but that those groups did not support the expenditure.
But the plane finally got off the ground after Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards saw Walden and Werner on a television program and donated the needed $75,000 to charter the plane. And Operation California's Thanksgiving Day flight marked the first cargo of supplies flow directly to Cambodia from the United States.
The departure of Operation California's next flight to Cambodia on Christmas Day turned into a full-blown campaign appearance by Brown. He had seen the three previous flights off with rather muted statements. But on Christmas, he called for "politics [to be] put aside," charging that the State Department is "quietly standing by while tens of thousands of people are starving to death in Cambodia."
Larry Pryor, Brown's campaign press representative, now says the governor's airport appearance was "personal, and not designated a part of the campaign." According to Pryor, Operation California's Werner has been used by the Brown Campaign as consultant on the Cambodia issue.
The Brown remark brought sharp rebukes by the State Department, which accused him of injecting campaign politics into the relief effort. A Carter administration official brought out figures to show U.S. support of international relief organizations providing goods to Cambodia. Pryor says the Brown campaign will withhold any further statement on Cambodia until it has assessed what the State Department is doing.
"The partisan comments by Brown were unfortunate," said producer Tony Adams. "Everyone will make sure it doesn't happen again."