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Benefits to Benefit People Who Hold Benefits

Does history prove, or even suggest, that fundraising concerts or performances ever did a thing to relieve the suffering of the children, farmers, starving peasants or victims of oppression anywhere on the planet?

If there is I’m unaware of it and would be cheered to learn that a few nickels found their way into the outstretched palms of hungry Biafran babies. But wouldn’t we have heard? Wouldn’t self-aggrandizing rock stars and their PR teams have flooded the media with stories and pictures of George Harrison standing near an orphan, or a copy of the letter Joan Baez’s press agent wrote to a leper?

Locally there was never a shortage of benefits for so-called worthy causes back in the 1970s and ‘80s, most staged at the Saturday Afternoon Club, often with the Hansen & Raitt Band heading the show. I recall benefits for Project Sanctuary, UVAH, El Salvador heroes, Mariposa School, Mayacama Industries, the SF Mime Troupe and others. 

(I also remember benefit proceeds being stolen by ticket takers, including Buster Cleveland who believed artists were underpaid and under-appreciated, and another guy, still around, who pocketed a fundraiser gate so he could buy more cocaine. Ah altruism.)

These events, in addition to featuring boogie-type music, often included Silent Auctions. My memory may have slipped, but these would have been typical of things to bid on:

—One hour free consultation with attorney Barry _______, plus a followup 15-minute session with attorney Jan Cole-Wilson to provide clarifications and corrections.

—A guided tour through the Grace Hudson Museum grounds featuring $40 million in new landscaping that magically transforms rainfall into water. A lunar dance performed by the SPACE Children’s Ensemble will include tin can thumping and booty shaking to music that would shock Grace Hudson.

—Wine. Cases and cases of wine will be provided by local wineries hoping to prevent crybaby nonprofit groups pestering them year ‘round for more free wine.

—Art. Local artists will donate their finest works. Paintings, sculptures and other unidentifiable items not purchased will be available on loading docks at no charge following the event. (State recycling fees to be levied on all art works acquired.)

—Free ballet lessons for 10 senior citizens, sponsored by Dr. Vince Corcoran’s Chiropractic Office.

—All expenses paid three-year membership to the KZYX Board of Directors, plus a free potassium cyanide capsule.

Beneficiaries will include the following underfunded non-profits:

—MTA, whose buses sometimes carry zero (“0”) passengers on various routes; the service is supposed to earn 17 cents for every dollar the federal government donates; amounts President Dementia plans to halve and double, respectively.

—Redwood Community Services, whose administrators are sometimes forced to subsist on less than $130,000 a year.

—Various arts groups that help children with no training or skills produce “art” hoisted upon downtown walls in public spaces so citizens might enjoy paintings of unicorns, rainbows, dancing hippies and children making the world an uglier place to live. And succeeding.

Come join us! In addition to music by local musicians, there will be a great variety of food made without sugar, white flour, cheese, butter or flavor. Look for gluten-free locally sourced, shade-grown items picked ‘neath a full moon by harvesters wearing tinfoil helmets harvested off trees from which no dolphins were harmed. 

At the end of the day, or decades, lots of money got funneled into these events both locally and internationally. But money from the famous Concert for Bangladesh was quickly tied up in lawsuits with the IRS, and my guess is the lawyers managed to skim any fat right down to the marrow before sending checks to anyone. 

What about the “We Are the World” song? Did it bring candy bars and Coca Cola to starving El Salvador peasants rescued by revolutionaries who immediately became communist thugs upon taking power? Did Farm Aid result in a single garden blooming somewhere in the Midwest?

And locally? I never heard a whisper about where all, or any, of the money went. Perhaps our friends at the Ukiah Community Center got new cars to drive back and forth to work, and maybe cash infusions from Ford Street Project fundraisers went to big staff luncheons at the Forest Club.

(Tom Hine thinks local benefits disappeared because it became much easier, and more lucrative, for nonprofits to simply apply for big government grants; TWK would like an address so he can apply for much-needed funding.)

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