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ELIZABETH GLASER : With a Song in Her Heart

Feb 14th, 1993

by Susan King, LA Times Staff Writer

On Tuesday, the Disney Channel will air "For Our Children: The Concert," featuring such popular recording artists as Paula Abdul, Michael Bolton and Kris Kross performing classic Disney tunes. The concert was taped in September at the Universal Amphitheatre as a benefit for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, a nonprofit organization confronting problems unique to children who have tested positive for HIV and those who have AIDS.

Jason Priestley, Mayim Bialik, Kadeem Hardison, Neil Patrick Harris, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Baby Sinclair Dinosaur are the hosts.

The same day, Walt Disney Records will release the compact disc and audiocassette versions of the concert and Walt Disney Home Video offers the home video version. Disney's first benefit album, 1991's "For Our Children," has earned nearly $3 million for Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

The foundation was founded five years ago by Elizabeth Glaser and her friends Susan DeLaurentis and Susan Zeegan. Glaser, the wife of actor-director Paul Michael Glaser ("Starsky and Hutch"), has been HIV-positive for 12 years. She received infected blood during a transfusion she received after giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She passed the human-immunodeficiency virus to Ariel through her breast milk; Ariel died in 1988. The Glasers' now 8-year-old son, Jake, contracted the virus in Glaser's womb.

In July, Glaser made an impassioned speech on the need for AIDS research and funding at the Democratic National Convention. She spoke with Times Staff Writer Susan King about the benefit concert, the foundation and its work.


How did the Pediatric AIDS Foundation get involved with the Walt Disney Co.?

Well, (CEO) Michael Eisner is on our executive advisory board, so we have had this relationship with Disney ever since we began, in more low-profile ways. The (For Our Children) album actually had another home and then one of the people who had been working on it moved to Disney and the idea went with it. They were very welcoming. I think it found its perfect home at Disney. So after the first album was so successful, it was actually (producer) Dawn Steel's idea to mount a large concert. We realized we could do a concert and tape it and have an album and have a video as well.


There also will be a telethon while the concert airs on Disney?

There will be an 800 number at the bottom of the screen. But it won't be like a telethon. We won't have people manning phones, none of that telethon feeling. There is no big pitch for money, but we hope people will call in and contribute because that is important.

As the singers are introduced (in the concert), there are different famous people who weave the show together and they will often talk about (AIDS and HIV), how it is so important to reach out and be compassionate and how you can't get AIDS from being someone's friend or drinking from a water fountain or swimming with them or kissing them or hugging them or sharing food with then.


Besides funding research, part of the purpose of PFA is to educate children?

We have a parent-education program that was distributed this fall to every PTA in the country to educate parents on how to talk (to children). This is geared to preschool and elementary school children, the theory being that parents often don't talk about things because they don't know how to begin and they don't know what words to use if it is very complicated. So this allows them the opportunity to educate themselves through a meeting, hopefully, which is what we recommend at a community or school or a religious organization. (They also) have a video to refer to to see different ways to talk to different-age kids about HIV. We have always felt a very important part of the AIDS challenge is education because that will be what will lead to prevention.

The beginning of the education is with the parents. That is what we are saying, that the parents have to educate themselves. Once the parent is educated, they can effectively talk to their child about it, and until then they really can't. I think it is dangerous to rely on the schools to do all of the work. With AIDS, this has to be a team approach in home and school.


Your speech last summer about AIDS and HIV at the Democratic Convention was so moving. What type of response did you receive?

I think it sensitized a lot of people, not specifically to pediatric AIDS, because that wasn't the focus of my speech. The foundation itself didn't really benefit, but certainly a lot of people know now who I am, and certainly my opportunity to be working in Washington was directly related to my having the opportunity to speak at the convention.


What are you doing with the Clinton Administration in Washington, D.C.?

I am kind of giving informal advice on all different issues relating to AIDS. It is really exciting.


Do you think funding for AIDS research and prevention will change with the new Clinton Administration?

We have a great opportunity and we must make sure we use it well. So I am here right now to help make sure that happens.

I think (in the Reagan and Bush years) there was a great deal of denial about AIDS in our country and, for a long time, people were allowed to believe this wasn't their problem because that was the message being sent out. In fact, it was an incorrect message and a message that put everyone at risk, especially teen-agers because it is everyone's problem. We all have to pay attention to it. I think that politics got confused with health.

"For Our Children: The Concert" premieres Tuesday at 6 and 8 p.m. on the Disney Channel; it will repeat Saturday at 11 a.m. and Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.

See "For Our Children" and "For Our Children: The Concert"

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