When NBC announced Thursday it was doing a "Coming Together" telethon to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims, many people including myself worried that given the list of scheduled performers, it would turn into a one-hour Obama campaign ad.
Much to my surprise and delight, Matt Lauer and guests did a classy, somber, respectful, and at times tear-jerking presentation totally absent politics or the mention of either presidential candidate's name.
The program's tone was immediately set by Staten Island native Christina Aguilera opening with a somber rendition of “Beautiful.”
Lauer then introduced a montage of Sandy's destruction that included Jon Bon Jovi touring devastated sections of his native Jersey shore.
He then in real time did acoustic versions of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Living on a Prayer” accompanied by guitarist Bob Bandiera and Lorenza Ponce on the violin.
Next up was Jimmy Fallon fronting - yes I said fronting! - Steve Tyler, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen in the classic Otis Redding tune "Under The Boardwalk"
The idea that narrators and presenters were clearly told to keep their political opinions to themselves became undeniably apparent when Tina Fey introduced footage of Ann Curry in Staten Island without making one ideological comment.
How hard must that have been for her?
At its conclusion, Billy Joel performed “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Down on Broadway)." I wonder how many people caught the lyrical change, "Staten Island drowned, but we went right on with the show?”
Jersey shore native Danny Devito then introduced Aerosmith who did “Dream On.”
This was followed by Sting doing “Message in a Bottle” and a choked-up Mary J. Blige performing “The Living Proof.”
Kevin Bacon then instructed viewers how to contribute by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
A final montage was shown of Sandy's impact throughout the region leading to the concluding song by Bruce Springsteen “Land of Hope and Dreams” with a dose of “People Get Ready.”
The Boss ended the program saying, "God bless New York, God bless the Jersey Shore.”
60 minutes and not one of these people - other presenters included NBC's Brian Williams and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart - said one word about politics, global warming, or the upcoming elections.
I guess they learned from 2005's Katrina relief telethon when Kanye West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
As such, kudos to NBC and all involved in this touching event. I cried throughout most of it and took Bacon's advice regarding texting.