After stepping down last December from the throne that he held for 25 years and 60,000 interviews on Larry King Live, the broadcasting icon stepped back up on the air with “Larry King To Life” hosting the 31st Chabad Lechaim To Life Telethon, with celebrity guests Howie Mandel, Oscar winners John Voight and Elliot Gould, Brad Garrett, Tom Arnold and Paula Abdul, among others. It was broadcast live from Hollywood Sunday Sept 25 and reached over 45 million households worldwide, breaking the record as the most viewed Jewish holiday program of all time!
Asked why he chose to come back to prime time TV to host this Rosh Hashana fundraiser, King said: “We all have friends and family who’ve fallen upon bitter times, and this Rosh Hashana it will take more than just ‘an apple in honey’ to bring them a sweet year. So I’m joining to help the thousands of people from all faiths and backgrounds who’ve turned to Chabad in dire need.”
Everybody Loves Raymond co-star Brad Garrett introduced himself as “the brother from Everybody Loves Chabad.” He went on to explain that “not everybody in the Chabad family is religiously observant, or even Jewish” he said, “but we are all ultra orthodox when it comes to the observance of Love Your Fellow As Yourself. That’s why everybody loves Chabad… because Chabad loves everybody!”
Co-hosts Sam Rubin and Stella Inger along with co-chairs Hollywood mega producer Jerry Weintraub and all-star attorney Marshall Grossman all kept the heat rising as the phone bank handled the flood of calls with donations from all over the country. But the 3-hour program was more than just a fundraiser. As host Larry King said, “Before we ask you to open your wallets, we want you to open your hearts.” Between the joyous dancing rabbis and the reading of pledges, Howie Mandel led a tour of the Chabad Drug Treatment Center, where over 10,000 lives have been saved since 1971; Paula Abdul spoke movingly about why she lights Shabbat Candles; John Voight stopped dancing long enough to ask a riddle. “What’s the only thing that can never be taken take away from you?” His answer: “All the charity you’ve ever given away to others will remain your mitzvah forever!” There were also Rosh Hashana performances by Jewish music stars Mordechai Ben David, Avarham Fried, and Broadway legend Mike Burstyn.
King also used the broadcast to dedicate a memorial wall in the UCLA Chabad House in honor of his parents and invited viewers to join him in dedicating a Yizkor memorial plaque in memory of his or her dearly departed. “I know my parents are proud of me as I join Chabad in helping the needy” he said. Asked why he chose the world’s first Chabad House for his parents’ memorial wall, King explained: “Chabad House is a place where anyone in need finds an open door to an open heart. Their approach to tikkun Olam is to fix the world one broken heart at a time.”
“The Telethon supports Chabad’s network of over 200 community outreach centers, and a broad range of educational and nonsectarian programs providing social services to the needy and support for children with special needs” said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, head of West Coast Chabad.
What’s all the dancing about? Telethon regular Tom Arnold put it simply “at Chabad, our greatest joy is giving!”
The Chabad To Life Telethon has become a perennial favorite for 31 years, attracting legendary guests from Bob Dylan to Bob Hope. The program was originally started by “All in the Family” star Carol O’Connor, back in 1980, after he witnessed the tragic fire that destroyed the UCLA Chabad House and claimed the lives of three students. Since then, a partial list of showbiz legends who came to show their support would be the envy of any Hollywood power event: Sammy Davis, Jr., Gene Wilder, Martin Sheen, Jackie Mason, Theodore Bikel, Neil Diamond, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and the entire cast of Friends, as well as talk show hosts Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, Conan O’Brian, Regis & Kelly- many of whom were not even able to pronounce “Chabad” but who’ve all joined the Dancing Rabbis to raise money for the charitable work Chabad does for people of all faiths and backgrounds.