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Equality Rocks the vote.

The groundbreaking gay and lesbian arena concert finds new life as a VH1 special--and as a "get out the vote" tool

It's no accident that the gay and lesbian arena rock show that was April's Equality Rocks will debut as a TV special on October 27, just 11 days before the election. Human Rights Campaign, the lesbian and gay lobbying group that produced the concert, will be tying part of its final pre-election voter awareness drive to the cablecast.

"We're going to build house parties all over the country," says Elizabeth Birch, HRC's executive director, who conceived the show. HRC is launching a grassroots voter turnout effort to coincide with the airing on VH1. ("They care about this issue, and they're supportive of HRC," Birch says of the cable outlet.) "We'll tie [the broadcast] to this notion that we're at a critical juncture in our history. People will literally get `get out the vote' kits [at the parties] as they watch Equality Rocks; they'll get a message on-screen and off about voting."

Birch promises that nothing will be lost in the concert's translation from RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., to viewers' television sets. The spirit of the event, right down to the tremendous ovation and the "sea of love" that greeted celebrity guest Ellen DeGeneres, will be evident--along with the parade of gay and gay-supportive superstar performers, including Melissa Etheridge, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Chaka Khan.

"We want to make sure every performer gets in," Birch says of the effort to compress the 5 1/2-hour concert into a one-hour special. The exceptions will be Garth Brooks, who did not agree to release his performance for broadcast, and George Michael. According to one of the concert's producers, Michael was upset that neither his duet with Brooks nor his personally produced video about gay teens forced into "conversion therapy" centers would be part of the special, since those were the moments that convinced him to agree to do the concert in the first place.

Despite those absences, "I think it's going to be an incredible piece," Birch says (the show was still in editing at press time). "We're very proud of it." Those who attended the concert might well agree that many moments are "absolutely magnificent," as Birch puts it. And whether or not you were in D.C. in April, you may be able to catch the next HRC-backed show in person.

"Equality Rocks will be a recurring thing," Birch says. "We're aiming for 2001 to do it again."

Gdula is a freelance writer who also contributes to The Washington Post.

For more on Human Rights Campaign, Equality Rocks, and VH1, find related Web links at
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Author:Gdula, Steve
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 7, 2000
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