Latin Grammy Artists Shift to Fund-Raising
By AGUSTIN GURZA, TIMES STAFF WRITER
During a quickly assembled benefit concert by stranded Latin Grammy nominees Friday night, recording academy officials said they are still trying to reschedule the awards telecast, which was canceled after last week's terrorist attacks.
Although salvaging a full-blown Latin Grammy production would be a long shot, organizers said they are hoping for a possible new date of Nov. 30.
"The logistics and the expenditures are overwhelming," said Enrique Fernandez, vice president of the Latin Recording Academy, who emceed Friday's impromptu benefit at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. "Nonetheless, we really, really want to do it." Artists from throughout the world had converged on Los Angeles for the second annual Latin Grammy show at the Forum in Inglewood, scheduled to air nationally on CBS the day terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon. The bedeviled event, which had already been moved from Miami to avoid planned protests by anti-communist Cuban exiles, was immediately canceled.
Opening Friday's fund-raiser for the families of New York's fallen firefighters and police, Grammy chief Michael Greene told the invitation-only audience of about 300 that the nation's tragedy altered things that once seemed "so incredibly important." Alluding to the odd relief of closing down the aborted Grammy show, Greene noted that "even that strange process was very cathartic."
The idea for the benefit was hastily hatched the night before the event when record producer Phil Ramone suggested taking advantage of the stranded Latin Grammy talent. Merv Griffin, who owns the hotel and sang a Spanish song during the show, said afterward that Beverly Hills police had urged him to keep the event private for security reasons.
The concert showcased a procession of 18 performers in a rich array of styles, from veteran salsa singer Ruben Blades to Colombian newcomer Juanes, the most-nominated artist in this year's Latin Grammy competition. The lyrics from Juanes' "Fijate Bien," a warning to "watch your step" to avoid being hurt by sudden political violence, took on a chilling relevance.
Speeches were kept to a minimum. Most artists just let the music speak.
The highlight was a surprise appearance by actor Kevin Spacey, who turned in a heartfelt rendition of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," dedicated as comfort for his fellow New Yorkers.
Cuba's visiting artists also shared the stage and the evening's spirit of compassion. Following his dazzling solo at the piano, Havana's Chucho Valdes stood alone on the sidelines, swaying gently to "The Star-Spangled Banner," his long arms held respectfully at his sides. "It's important to participate in some fashion, to show unity and help however we can," said Valdes.
The show closed with a rousing encore by Cuban singer Issac Delgado, featuring a guest vocal by Panama's Blades. The two stars were surrounded by reporters and well-wishers as they left the ballroom together. At the door, Blades turned to thank a trio of uniformed policemen, who seemed taken aback by the attention.
"Take care, man," the singer said, shaking hands with the officers one by one.
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