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Ticketmaster Reaches Out as Hands Across America Sponsor

From United Press International

Ticketmaster became the newest major corporate sponsor of Hands Across America on Tuesday, giving participants a way to make contributions and receive an immediate place in the coast-to-coast charity lineup.

Project organizer Ken Kragen also announced at a press conference in West Hollywood that 1.5 million route assignments, about one-fourth of those needed to complete the 4,000-mile human chain from Los Angeles to New York on Sunday, May 25, have already been made and are now being mailed.

Among those committed to spots along the route are several celebrities, including Pat Benatar, Kevin Bacon, Marla Gibbs, David Hasselhoff, Olivia Newton-John, Mary Lou Retton, Lily Tomlin, Kathleen Turner, Oprah Winfrey and Kenny Rogers--who is flying in a planeload of famous friends to join him in the Texas and New Mexico deserts.

Those making a contribution of $10 or more, to be used to fight poverty in the United States, may still sign up by mail or through a toll-free telephone number, but Kragen said he expects most orders to flow through the ticket agency.

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At the agency, they may request a specific block in urban areas and a certain mile in rural sections of the country, and will receive a concert-style ticket telling them where to report the day of the event.

Ticketmaster chairman Fred Rosen said the agency will charge a 50-cent fee to people who purchase a spot on the charity route, instead of its usual fee of $2 or more. He said the agency, with about 600 outlets nationwide, will also make a donation after the event.

“All of us have seen various levels of desperation or hunger or homeless people,” Rosen said. “But in recent years it has become almost impossible to go anywhere in America and not see people walking the streets or sleeping on sidewalks.

“There are a lot of us who are beneficiaries of the American system. Those of us who are doing well have an obligation to stand up and be counted.”

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Dozens of other companies, starting with Coca-Cola USA, have made major commitments to the project, which is being advertised nationwide through a variety of firms including McDonald’s tray liners and Safeway shopping bags.

Kragen described nationwide enthusiasm for the project--which will involve about 6 million people in the common effort to raise at least $50 million to fight poverty in the United States--as “absolutely awesome” and said he has no doubt it will be a success.

“We’re doing this to help people who are hungry and homeless in this country,” Kragen said. But he said the project has also aroused a great sense of community spirit and pride, giving “a chance for people of all races and religions to stand together, to stand up for something, to make a difference.”


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