Bon Jovi Puts ‘Ally McBeal’ On Hold To Play Benefits

Singer delays TV shoot to tend to charitable matters.

As a red-blooded Jersey boy, Jon Bon Jovi was especially hard-hit by the terrorist attacks that took place in nearby New York City on September 11 — so much so that he delayed plans to start shooting his five-month stint on “Ally McBeal” to play some benefit shows back home.

“I want to lend my name and support to as many of these [benefits] as I can, so I told them, ‘Either delay it a month, or I have to withdraw,’ ” Bon Jovi said Friday night after an appearance at the Twin Towers Relief Benefit at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. “['Ally McBeal' creator] David E. Kelley was really wonderful, because he completely understood and supported my decision wholeheartedly.”

Onstage at the Stone Pony, Bon Jovi played a solo acoustic version of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” a song he played during 15 stops on Al Gore’s campaign trail. Then band keyboardist David Bryan joined him for the Bon Jovi songs “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Just Older.”

The next stop on the Bon Jovi benefit rounds is the October 20 extravaganza at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which will also feature Paul McCartney, the Who, John Mellencamp, Macy Gray, the Goo Goo Dolls, James Taylor, India.Arie and Melissa Etheridge (see “Paul McCartney Joining Bon Jovi, Macy Gray For New York Benefit” ). All money from that event will go to the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which will distribute the money to the Twin Towers Fund and other agencies aiding victims and their families.

Not only is Bon Jovi performing music to help heal the wounds of others; he’s also playing it to come to grips with his own confusion.

“I met the widows at the firehouses and spent some time with them. This whole thing was a tragedy,” he said. “These [rescue workers] lost their lives protecting others. These guys were real heroes. They weren’t afraid to run into a burning building to try to get people out of there, not knowing if there was anyone in there or not. As everyone was coming down the stairwells, they were running up them. So for me to have done the telethon (see “Mariah Carey, Springsteen, Other Stars Sing For America On Telethon” ) and then to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ for the NFL, those were the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done in my career. For me to play these benefits is nothing compared to what the real heroes did.”

When all the benefits have been played, Bon Jovi will concentrate on his guest role on the new season of “Ally McBeal” (see “Elton John Goes To ‘Ally McBeal’ Happy Hour; Bon Jovi May Take Role” ). His appearances on the show should begin airing in mid-January, a Bon Jovi spokesperson said.

He’s not giving up his recording career for the small screen, of course; he plans to enter the studio with his bandmates to record the next Bon Jovi album while he’s working on “Ally McBeal” in L.A. (see “Bon Jovi’s Future Holds Vampire-Slaying, Another LP” ). Twelve songs have been demoed so far, and Bon Jovi said it’s sounding like business as usual.

“We’re affected by this [terrorism], but we’re not going to let it affect the tone of the record,” he said.”I think we’re really inspired now, and, if anything, we’re going to try to find that optimism that we’ve always had in order to help people when they’re listening to it.”

The new Bon Jovi record is tentatively scheduled for release next fall.

For a feature interview with Bon Jovi, check out “Bon Jovi: The Big Dance.”

For more information on and audience reaction to the attacks, including tips on how you can help, see “9.11.01: Moving Forward.”