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Celebrities join in hands across America

By STEVEN GINSBURG, United Press International

A dazzling array of celebrities ranging from President Reagan to former welfare recipient Whoopi Goldberg joined millions of other Americans Sunday in the Hands Across America chain.

Actress Cicely Tyson, who portrayed a homeless woman last Monday during a made-for-television movie about social activist Mitch Snyder, was at the Long Beach, Calif., end of the chain.

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'What it was was people helping other people,' she said. 'A lot of people who are on the streets or are hungry are no different than the rest of us. We can all tell ourselves that there but for the grace of God go I.'

At the other end of the chain, Yoko Ono, widow of the late John Lennon, stood in New York's Battery Park, and said: 'It's just such a magical moment. And as magical as it seems this is just a beginning.'

Director Steven Spielberg and actor Stacy Keach were in the San Fernando Valley, standing on a one-mile stretch Spielberg bought for handicapped, abused and poor children.

'For every celebrity there are going to be 425,000 ordinary people,' Spielberg said. 'This is the greatest thing that has happened in a publicly organized way since Woodstock.'

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Actress Bo Derek held hands with Sen. Alan Cranston at the California-Arizona border.

Entertainers Goldberg, Raquel Welch, Ben Vereen, Donny Osmond, Donna Mills and Dudley Moore joined the 10,000 people at Long Beach. Gerald Ford and Frank Sinatra joined the line in nearby Rancho Mirage.

'I find it very difficult to verbalize the experience,' said Goldberg, formerly a single mother on welfare. 'I try to do everything I can for people who don't have. I remember what it was like.'

Reagan, who recently blamed the nation's hunger problem on people not knowing where to obtain public assistance, joined hands in front of the White House.

His mere presence caused controversy.

Snyder and about 200 residents from his squalid inner-city shelter stood across the street from the White House to protest the president's participation.

'We support Hands Across America,' Snyder said. 'We're a part of it. But we want the president to know that simply holding hands is not enough. It takes money. This administration has done everything possible to make sure that the hungry and the homeless are forgotten.'

Chicago Bears star Walter Payton bought a mile in Champaign, Ill., and was joined by 1,300 of his closest friends, including quarterback Jim McMahon.

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A sampling of others taking part in the festivities nationwide include: Kenny Rogers, Brooke Shields, Sugar Ray Leonard, The Lettermen, Joan Rivers, Don Jonhson, 'Smokin' Joe' Frazier, Dionne Warick, Tony Danza, Grover Washington Jr., Sen. Edward Kennedy, Mary Lou Retton, Coretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey and Raul Julia.

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