Today in 1986, Americans were supposed to build national unity and help those in need by linking hands in a chain that stretched from sea to shining sea.
And that’s what they did!
At least some of them did.
The guy behind the hands was Ken Kragen.
He was a top manager in the music business, and had some of the biggest names in the industry as clients.
In fact, the USA for Africa movement that led to the charity song “We Are The World” first began when Harry Belafonte called Ken Kragen and asked him to help recruit big-name musicians to sing on the track.
That effort raised huge amounts of money for famine relief overseas.
Kragen wanted to do an event to address hunger and homelessness in the United States.
In theory, the idea was simple: get a whole bunch of people to agree to hold hands from one end of the continental United States to the other for 15 minutes.
If each one of them paid $10 to participate, plus contributions from big name donors, they could raise $50 to $100 million for charity.
Once again, Kragen got big names to publicize Hands Across America.
And he got some big companies like Coca-Cola and Citibank to make donations.
It was the holding hands all the way across the country part that was tricky.
There had actually been a similar project in 1976 that had even used the same name, but that Hands Across America ended up being hands across about ten miles in the greater Chicago area.
Part of the problem was that to make a continent-wide human chain, you have to pick one route.
A lot of people lived on the stretch between New York to Long Beach, California, but some of those who weren’t on the line felt left out.
And then, you had to actually get enough people to show up in the right places at the right time.
Kragen said it was like a get out the vote effort in a political campaign.
And in the end, they just needed more people than they actually got.
There were big long lines of people, sure, but also big gaps.
And not everybody ended up giving ten bucks like the organizers had originally planned.
Some of the big donations fell through, too.
In the end, Hands Across America raised $15 million after expenses, which were about $16 million.
Still, $15 million isn’t nothing.
And they did get some five million people involved.
Some of them were in other countries!
There were at least five marriages during the event, too.
So while it didn’t bring everybody together, it did get more than a few to put their hands together for a good cause.
It was this week in 2016 that a teen in the Bay Area pulled off a pretty good prank at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
While no one was looking, he put a pair of glasses on the floor in a gallery, and watched as people assumed that the frames were actually a piece of modern art.
Of course, I’m not saying they weren’t also art.
Us: What Was Hands Across America, the Creepy Event That Inspired Jordan Peele? (Vanity Fair)
This Teen Pulled Off The Ultimate Joke At An Art Gallery (Buzzfeed News)
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