Earlier in the evening, acts ranging from Destiny's Child to The Who helped raise about $14 million for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which will distribute the money to victims of the World Trade Center bombings. Even former saxophonist-in-chief Bill Clinton wanted to get in on the act. "I'd like to play, but not tonight," he said. "I'm not in the same league with these guys."
He wasn't the only one feeling intimidated: Many of the 5,000 or so police, firefighters and rescue workers who attended had trouble grasping that the celebs were in awe of them. "I talked to a fireman who was trapped in the rubble," said actress Natalie Portman. "He said, 'I wasn't nervous then, but I'm nervous now.'" A fellow member of New York's Bravest proved bolder: He approached Chad Lowe and wife Hilary Swank, hoping Macy Gray had tossed her hat near their seats during her performance of "With a Little Help from My Friends." She hadn't, but the fireman received a consolation prize. "I took him backstage with my pass," Lowe says, "and he got to meet her."
The following day another disaster benefit, the Country Freedom Concert, lured some 10,000 fans to Nashville while the 11-hour United We Stand concert held at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., kicked in some $3 million for victims' relief.
All the while, the meaning behind the music was never far from revelers' minds. In D.C. the Backstreet Boys were mourning the loss of road-crew carpenter Daniel Lee, 34, who had been on the plane that struck the World Trade Center's north tower. "It has me thinking, Don't take anyone for granted," said Kevin Richardson. Carole King, who had been visiting the Hart Senate Office Building during the anthrax scare, was on the antibiotic Cipro. Still, she said, events wouldn't slow her down. "I'm playing with Rod Stewart's band," she said, "and you know how they rock!"