OFFBEAT: Streetlamp, GR groups join Connie Francis for TV telethon

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-11-08T00:00:00Z 2013-11-14T21:38:05Z OFFBEAT: Streetlamp, GR groups join Connie Francis for TV telethonBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Many entertainers have been "discovered" after appearing on a telethon or national television appearance.

This very premise was even part of the plot line for the 1967 film version of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel "Valley of the Dolls," when Patty Duke's hopeful singer character gets booked on a telethon hosted by George Jessel.

The same storyline was true for Connie Francis' lead character in her 1964 film "Looking for Love," except her big break comes after singing a song for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."

Francis, who turns 75 next month, is hosting a special TV telethon this weekend called "Homeward Bound" for cable's The Military Channel, with portions also airing from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sunday night on Chicago's WGN Channel 9. The live four-hour national telethon is to support American veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Francis is sharing the broadcast hosting duties with actors Alan Alda and Joe Mantegna, along with special appearances by Jason Gould, Ben Vereen, Gloria Loring, Kevin Spacey, Michael Feinstein, Jason Bateman, Patti Austin, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Blake Shelton, Mark Harmon, Henry Winkler, Trace Adkins, Bette Midler, Dr. Phil McGraw and others.

And adding to the excitement, Star Plaza Theatre's Charlie Blum has booked both of the groups he manages, Under The Streetlamp and Gentleman's Rule to do live performances. Gentleman's Rule will just finish their big sold-out concerts and PBS TV special taping Saturday night at Star Plaza in Merrillville and they'll hop a plane to Los Angeles to perform on Sunday's telethon.

You can see exclusive video shot of Gentleman's Rule rehearsing last week shot by our Times Online Video Editor Brian Vernellis at

The telethon is broadcasting live from the historic American Legion Hall #43 in Hollywood and multiple Emmy-winner Gary Smith is executive producer, Lee Miller is producer and Gail Purse is co-producer/talent executive. The event is being presented by the organization Haven from the Storm.

"It's important to recognize the valiant contributions made by brave American soldiers, veterans who protect our country, and return home with PTSD and TBI," Haven From the Storm Founder Leonard Wilf said.

"This cause is in my heart and I suspect that's true for many Americans who care."

Other participating charities include: American Red Cross, New York Presbyterian Hospital, One Mind 4 Research and the Wounded Warrior Project.

I'm told a significant portion of the broadcast will be devoted to testimonials and personal stories from veterans and their families who have experienced difficulties as they returned from the battlefronts of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For more information, visit

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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