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International Telethon Raises More Than $3.5 Million for Quake Victims

Times Staff Writer

Celebrities and other volunteers converged on Spanish-language television station KMEX-TV Sunday to join an international telethon that organizers hope will raise millions for victims of the Mexico City earthquake.

Co-hosted in Los Angeles by Ricardo Montalban and Vikki Carr, the upbeat show, titled “Mexico, Estamos Contigo” (Mexico, We’re With You), raised more than $3.5 million in telephone pledges by early evening in Southern California alone, and telethon spokesman Steve Moya said still more had been raised in other countries where the telethon was broadcast.

“Something had to be done, given the enormity of the devastation and the fact that it was played out in our living rooms,” said Danny Villanueva, president of KMEX-TV, who organized the telethon in cooperation with stations of the Spanish International Network (SIN).

He said the telecast was carried by 345 SIN affiliates, with performances by artists at studios in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Phoenix and San Antonio, Tex., intercut with shows originating in Puerto Rico, Chile, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic.

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“In a moment like this,” said Rene Enriquez, co-star of the “Hill Street Blues” television series, “it fills my heart to see all the Latino artists united. In a moment of tragedy there are no barriers between countries.

“I am moved by everybody coming in, flying in from long distances. I think this is wonderful. This is unity among humans. This is what counts.”

Telephone operations were centered in the studios of television station KTLA.

“It’s exciting,” said Ana Rosa Cervantes, who supervised volunteers as they accepted telephone pledges. “There are so many volunteers on telephones that I can hardly hear. The phones are really jumping!”

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Didn’t Need Urging

Moya said money raised by the telethon in the United States and abroad will be sent to the Mexican Red Cross to help set up and maintain clinics and to buy medicines and food.

Latino performers taking part in the event said they needed no urging to participate.

“I know already that I have grandparents and cousins in the earthquake zone,” said singer-actress Apollonia Katero. “Its killing me not to hear from them. The show and the work are secondary to me right now.”

And not all the volunteers were Latino.

“There’s a tremendous crossover of people,” Villanueva said, with such stars as Sammy Davis Jr., Burt Reynolds and Morgan Fairchild offering their services. “They see what’s happened, and they say, ‘How can I help?’ ”

Villanueva said the decision to stage the telethon was made early last week, but final preparations were not completed until just before show time.

“In the beginning,” he said, “there were some skeptics, and I got infected by the attitude. I began to ask, ‘Can we do it?’

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“But I was wrong. There was never any real question. But sometimes it was a real horse-race . . . they got the set done at midnight and they finished the theme song about 4 a.m. Sunday morning. The piano was retuned, ready for the show, half an hour before air time . . . but it was all worth it.”


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