Great Shakes: 'Hands Across America' 20 Years Later

In the end, it was a massive undertaking. From New York City, the line was to pass through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and dip down to the Capitol before stretching though Cleveland; Chicago; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; and Dallas. It then cut across the Southwest, crossing Phoenix and finally reaching Long Beach, Calif., at the foot of the Queen Mary.

When the magic day finally arrived, millions of people simply stood with hands clasped for 15 minutes and sang, "We Are the World," "America the Beautiful," and the Hands Across America theme.

While it turned out to be a giant feel-good party, the coast-to-coast link was symbolic at best. The line of Hands volunteers passed through cities and forests, and over mountains. But in stretches of barren land, sometimes more than 100 miles long, yellow ribbon had to suffice.

Still, America rarely involves so many people in a single activity, and all along the route, you could see many sides of a country that truly is diverse, both in its land, and its people.

In Washington, Reagan and his staff were joined by Graham, Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton and Coretta Scott King.

In Iowa, the Rev. Jesse Jackson stood between a Motel 6 night manager and Mr. Goodwrench.

In Texas, migrant workers organized a 51-mile stretch.

In New Mexico, Hopi and Navajo tribesmen met in a hand-holding pow-wow.

In Pittsburgh's Three River Stadium, hundreds of Little Leaguers held hands with big leaguers as the line crossed the grandstand.

The Associated Press reported that five couples tied the knot that day while participating in the festivities, while another couple in Illinois rushed from a synagogue to join in the massive union.

"We chose our wedding date long before we'd heard of it," said the groom. "Our first thought was, 'Oh no! What will this do to the traffic near the temple?'"

P.S. My other DVD pick of the week: The Joey Reynolds DVD retrospective. Reynolds is a radio legend, and one of only three disc jockeys inducted into the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame. Now, this 55-minute look at the last decade of his 40+ years on the radio -- available at -- captures the rollicking wit and variety of guest that have made him a coast-to-coast favorite, especially for cheesecake-loving night owls. Reynolds longtime pals -- comic legend Soupy Sales and jazz great Les Paul -- are among the featured celebrities. You can count me in as an F.O.J. ("Friend of Joey").

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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