04/02/1990 at 01:00 AM EDT
Barry Manilow crooned. Milli Vanilli pranced. And Whitney Houston shook the rafters with "The Greatest Love of All." Arista Records' 15th-anniversary "That's What Friends Are For!" songfest had all the glitter you'd expect from a company built on platinum pop—and a conscience too. As Arista President Clive Davis put it, the March 17 Radio City Music Hall extravaganza was also "a party with a purpose." The $2 million raised from the 5½-hour event will go to benefit the Gay Men's Health Crisis and other organizations battling AIDS.
Co-hosted by a galaxy of Hollywood star power—Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, Lauren Bacall and others—the concert wasn't all philanthropy. It was also a soon-to-be-prime-time showcase of Arista-produced tunes and top liners. Pared to two hours, the concert will air on CBS April 17. Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday delivered an explosive rendition of "And I'm Telling You." And former punk poet Patti Smith came out of semiretirement to join guitarist husband Fred in an acoustic version of Bob Dylan's "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" and her own "People Have the Power."
"I was really happy to be asked to perform," said Jermaine Jackson during a preshow bash at Davis's glassy, 38th-floor Manhattan penthouse, where 100 guests traded Top 40 shoptalk. "We have to get together to cure this disease—that's exactly what friends are for."