Agalaxy of performers and volunteers has been assembled to beguile, warn and educate viewers about HIV, AIDS and assorted ramifications. The wonder of it all is that it comes off as such slick entertainment.
Barbara Walters hosts the show, which is performed for the most part on a set lined with panels from the Names Project AIDSQuilt. Brief warnings about prevention come from celebs ranging from President Clinton to Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell to Liz Smith, Rosie Perez to Michael Moriarty.
Clint Black, Kathy Mattea, Chaka Khan and Gloria Estefan entertain, as does jazz singer Jimmy Scott, who sings a pointed oldie, “I Cried for You.” Michael Feinstein notes that all the songs, old and new, are related to AIDS because they’re about love.
Liza Minnelli lets loose on a powerful, chorus-backed “The Day After That” (from “The Kissof the Spider Woman”). Lou Reed’s haunting “Halloween Parade,” sung with videos of people celebrating the annual Greenwich Village parade, is terrif.
Seattle-based rock group Rumors of the Big Wave movingly sings a safe-sex anthem, “Love Glove,” and Youthwave, HIV-positive young adults who’ve formed a traveling info brigade, briskly bring home truths to young adults.
The days of TV’s obscuring of condoms have passed, and they’re repeatedly mentioned and demonstrated.
A touching video portrait of the late Broadway musical director James Raitt rehearsing the “Damn Yankees” orch is stunning.
A video essay on rural ignorance about AIDS spotlights a doctor educating a small town in Georgia, where the virus is multiplying among heterosexuals; there’s a glimpse of AIDS service organizations, such as New York’s Miracle House, where patients’ families can assemble for support.
The medical news during thetelecast about the virus isn’t encouraging. The drug AZT may possibly protect pregnant women with AIDS from passing the disease to the fetus, which would be a medical breakthrough; however, doctors and lab workers verify no magic bullet for HIV or AIDS is in the air — and new cases of AIDS among heterosexuals increased in 1993.
Program, with repeated insistence about safe sex, sterilized needles and mention of abstinence, has been sharply produced and directed with dignity, purpose and showbiz know-how. As Barbara Walters says, it’s part of “a commitment to end the AIDS crisis.” Maybe the idea of more warning programming will catch on in other quarters — there’s more to lose among the innocents than innocence.