Hollywood and Broadway elite came together in New York on Monday night to raise money for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and to warn of what they cast as the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency.
Comedian Billy Crystal, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, set the tone early in the program.
“Our goal tonight is simple,” Crystal told a sold-out crowd of 1,700 at the St. James Theatre in Manhattan. “We have to raise more money than Donald Trump lost in 1995.”
It’s doubtful that the event raised the $916 million that the Republican nominee reported losing that year — but it wasn’t for a lack of star-power.
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From a remote location, singer and actress Barbra Streisand served as a co-host. Others on site who offered musical performances or assessments of the race (or both) included Sara Bareilles, Angela Bassett, Matthew Broderick, Lena Dunham, Josh Grobin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirren, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bernadette Peters and Julia Roberts.
Clinton, heavy into preparations for the third and final presidential debate, did not attend, but she offered a brief video message in which she heralded the importance of the arts for telling “us who we are and where we’re going and what we’re striving for and who we will be.”
Both her daughter, Chelsea, and her husband, Bill, appeared in person, making pitches for why Hillary Clinton should prevail in three weeks.
The former president said that “inclusive societies work better than us-and-them.”
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Chelsea Clinton recounted meeting vulnerable families on the campaign trail, including one headed by a woman who arrived in the United States from Guatemala more than a decade ago and whose son is now being told “Go back to Mexico” and “I can’t wait until we build a wall.”
“What is at stake in this election is the future we want our children to grow up in and whether or not we’re going to have a country that we can all be proud of because all us can be ourselves,” Chelsea Clinton said.
There was plenty of praise directed at her mother from the performers, but the warnings about Trump tended to stand out more.
Gyllenhaal and Hamm performed dialogue from the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel, “It Can’t Happen Here,” about a fascist winning the White House.
“Vote,” Hamm implored the audience when they were done.
Crystal offered a more pedestrian critique of Trump.
“To me, he’s like a 7-Eleven,” Crystal said. “He’s open 24 hours, and he’s trying to sell us crap we don’t want.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical “Hamilton,” performed a number from the show re-written to fit the 2016 election.
Among the more memorable lines: “We know that our Hillary’s no quitter/We watch as her opponent sits and piddles with with his Twitter.”
A Clinton aide said most attendees paid between $45 and $2,700 for their seats. Some chipped in considerably more, ranging up to $100,000.
Proceeds were slated to go the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint venture of the Clinton campaign and national and state Democratic parties.
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