How Harvey Weinstein, Obama and Clinton Nearly Staged a Led Zeppelin Reunion
This story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Harvey Weinstein readily admits he's a pit bull, particularly when it comes to philanthropic work. Case in point: When the mogul needed the music industry's biggest names to perform at the 12-12-12 concert benefiting Hurricane Sandy victims, he called on two U.S. presidents to use their diplomatic clout. "Harvey found out Led Zeppelin was being honored by The Kennedy Center, and he chartered a plane to D.C. and was like, 'We're going to get presidents Obama and Clinton to get Led Zeppelin back together,' " recalls Clear Channel entertainment president John Sykes, who produced the concert with Weinstein and Cablevision CEO James Dolan.
With Dolan egging on Weinstein by estimating that a three-song set from the rock legends would raise millions, the Weinstein Co. co-founder convinced Obama and Clinton to reach out to the estranged trio at the Dec. 2 ceremony. Clinton's appeal nearly succeeded, with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones agreeing. But Jimmy Page nixed it. "He's got a lawyer who's Satan or something like that," jokes Weinstein.
Still, Weinstein hardly struck out. The number of performers who signed on -- including The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay and Alicia Keys -- was extraordinary. The Madison Square Garden blowout became one of the most successful aid concerts of all time, raising more than $53 million for the Robin Hood Relief Fund.
More than 275,000 people from 95 countries committed funds as a result of the concert, which was watched by a quarter of U.S. households on 37 channels. Weinstein and Sykes -- both board members of the NYC-based Robin Hood Foundation, which fights poverty in the city -- previously teamed with Dolan on the 9/11 concert that raised $35 million for those affected by the terrorist attacks. Every dollar raised from 12-12-12 was doled out within 118 days of the concert. "A big challenge with large charities is the red tape," explains Sykes. "The beauty of Robin Hood is, they're nimble and on the street. If [the group] is helping a homeless person, he's basically in a shelter that night. If there's someone without food, he's eating that night."