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Romanian Angel Appeal Launch

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London, England; June 22, 1990
George and Olivia Harrison held a press conference to launch and promote Romanian Angel Appeal

Question: Why did you decide to speak out on the plight of the orphans of Romania?
George Harrison: Well, the wife asked me if I would do this song. She said, "Or else..." No, she asked if I could talk the Wilburys into doing a song. When you see the photographs and what's happening, the babies alone in their cribs, we all have to do something occasionally. And I thought it was a good thing to do.


Q: What was the single factor that started your Romanian Angel Appeal?

Olivia Harrison: It was sort of a gradual assault on my conscience. It was slowly wearing away at me and I decided that perhaps we should try to raise some money, so I began to write various charities and see what we could do. In the end, I found myself responsible for lots of money and felt I should go to Romania and see what would be the most effective thing to do. Especially since Elton, Linda, Barbara, and Ringo, Paul, and Yoko had donated alon with us. Anyway, I went to Romania and was just overwhelmed, devastated, and shocked by the situation.


Q:
How many children do you think are involved? The kind of figures we're getting are around 15,000. Do you think it more than that?
OH: I think there's far more than that. I've heard 40,000, I've heard 50,000, I've even heard 400,000. Virtually every few miles there's an orphanage. We had a list of 400 and we didn't see any of them on the list. We started to go to one and they'd just point us to another, and another, and another.


Q: What are the conditions?

OH: Shocking! It's very bad, far worse than you can imagine, especially now. I mean, at this point in time, everybody is enjoying such luxury in their lives, and then you see one hundred fifty children with no sanitation. On a practical level, that's what we're trying to do, make their lives more tolerable. Basically, they need to be taken out of the orphanages. Every child needs a family, some love, and nurturing.


Q: Why should there be so many children in Romanian orphanages?

OH: Well, Ceausescu felt that if Romania had thirty million people it would give him more power and the country would become a more formidable force in Europe. Women were forced to have five children. Both abortion and birth control were illegal. So the lucky ones in the orphanages grew up to be in his army, the Securitate, but those were the lucky ones.


Q: They were known as his children, I believe

OH: They were turned over to the State. I saw a trolley of babies you know, like loaves of bread. The sad thing is, life goes on, politics change, but nothing really changes in their lives. Day after day, year after year, their entire lives are spent in these horrible institutions.


Q: Are you saying you'd like them to be adopted, and if so, isn't there a certain amount of resentment against the adoption of Romanian children over here?

OH: I've been steering clear of that question because it is a difficult one. I know a woman who just bought a baby back and was given the runaround, but she finally succeeded. If you feel that in your heart, then that's a personal decision.


Q: How much money have you raised so far?

OH: Through the Daily Mail we've raised L835,000, to the credit of the British public...I always remember Bob Geldof saying during Live Aid, "pity the man who did nothing because he could do so little." And really, the public haven't seen shy in donating a pound or five. That's what's done it.


Q: George, how did you first become aware of what was happening?

GH: Well, I was in Los Angeles so I didn't really know about it until Olivia told me by telephone. Then, to my amazement, she suddenly said, "I'm going to Bucharest tomorrow." When she returned she brought back a lot of photographs and said, "It'd be a nice idea if you would do a song and help raise a bit of money. Maybe you could put a single out." I thought, well that's easy enough, because I was in a room with tape machines and stuff, so we did something.


Q: All the proceeds will go to this Romanian Angel Appeal?

GH: Yeah. We also had an instrumental from Dave Stewart to put on the B-side, and then somebody suggested we make it into an album. There's a fellow who manages a couple of people in the States and does Dylan's tours, it was his suggestion, so within a couple of hours we had Ric Ocasek from the Cars. He volunteered a track, so I got on the phone and now we have Eric Clapton and Elton John, plus Stevie Wonder, Mike and the Mechanics, as well as Guns N' Roses. So it's quite a fun album.


Q: Olivia, you've been back to Bucharest, have you seen any of the effects of the money you've brought in?

OH: This last trip I took, during the earthquake, I visited two orphanages. I'm very emotional about the whole thing, but to walk in there and see the children with no showers, hot water, heaters, or bathtubs, so little for us, things we wouldn't even thing about.


Q: Do you hope to go there, George, to see what's happening?

GH: Not particularly. I'm not saying I won't, but it's not really my idea to go...I can do more this way, to help get the money to the people who actually know what they're doing. It's going to be better than it was, and it's a matter of time to get 'round to all these places and get them all wash basins and toilets.

OH: George was going to be an electreician...

GH: Or a plumber...


Q: What did you eventually become?

GH: I don't know, really. Just some object for the newspapers to make fun of probably.

*note: The album they are talking about is "Nobody's Child- Romanian Angel Appeal" released: July, 1990
         
1. Travelling Wilburys- Nobody's Chld
           2. Van Morrison- Wonderful Remark
           3. Elton John- Medicine Man
           4. Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys- This Week
           5. Paul Simon and George Harrison- Homeward Bound
           6. Bee Gees- How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
           7. Billy Idol- Lovechild
           8. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians- Big Day Little Boat
           9. Stevie Wonder- Feeding Off the Love of the Land
           10. Eric Clapton- That Kind of Woman
           11. Ric Ocasek- Goodnight Little One
           12. Duane Eddy- The Tremble
           13. Mike and the Mechanics- Ain't That Pecular
           14. Guns N' Roses- Civil War
           15. Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band- With A Little Help From My Friends