10/12/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT
TO THE CHEERING OF HER FANS, SINGER GLORIA ESTEFAN slides out of the black limo behind Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium. Backstage are her costars—Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, Paul Rodriguez, Elayne Boosler, Andy Garcia, Rosie O'Donnell
. This is no ordinary concert; the star-studded lineup and sellout crowd of 55,000 are here to aid victims of Hurricane Andrew. They've come at the invitation of local heroes Estefan, 34, and her husband and producer Emilio, 39, who have been mounting their own nonstop relief effort. "Emilio has pictures of me with Manuel Noriega." jokes comedian Rodriguez, "and he said he was going to publish them if I didn't come."
Rodriguez's brand of relief—the comic variety—was as important a part of the evening's program (to be aired Oct. 11, on Showtime) as the nearly $2 million the Sept. 26 event raised. "I think we're ready for a little bit of fun," says Gloria. "Kind of shake off these blues."
Although the Estefans' home on Biscayne Bay sustained only minor damage, Miami's favorite daughter knows all about beating the blues. Back in 1990 Gloria was nearly paralyzed in a bus crash. "You can't sit there and wallow," the relentlessly upbeat singer says. "You weep for what's gone and then you move ahead."
The Estefans and their 12-year-old son, Nayib, were moved to action by the devastation they saw in Homestead and other hard-hit areas. (The family, plus Gloria's mother, two friends, four dogs and a bird, weathered the storm safely, if sleeplessly, in the control room of her South Miami recording studio.) known for their community spirit, the Estefans quickly organized relief centers in their studio-office complex. Among the friends pitching in was actor Andy Garcia.
Wanting to do more, Estefan decided to release an inspirational ballad she'd recently written, "Always Tomorrow," and donate all proceeds to hurricane aid. Then she and Emilio hit upon the ultimate relief project—a benefit concert. A call to the Robbie family secured the use of the stadium. Next the couple started lining up celebrity friends. Some with local roots—like Stills and Boosler, whose parents' place in Homestead was reduced to rubble—were considering benefits of their own. But when they found out Estefan already had the stadium, they jumped aboard. Comic Relief, which had planned a February benefit in Miami for the homeless, decided not to wait, adding even more performers.
By showtime Saturday there were so many acts that Boosler joked, "I won't be on till Tuesday." Not to worry—Boosler later cracked up the crowd with a bit of close-to-home humor. "My soul was overwhelmed with one thought," she said. "My parents are not moving in with me!" Garcia sat in on congas with an all-star Latin band, then emotionally told the audience, "Through it all, you were there for each other. Everybody here is a hero."
But nobody was a bigger hero than Estefan. As the petite singer took the stage in her red miniskirt and skyscraper heels, the crowd roared. Soon she launched into her own message to Miami, the new single. "Things will never be the same, the only sure thing is change." she sang, "but there's always tomorrow."
CINDY DAMPIER in Miami