Yes, I'm a believer. I'm not an 'ignoranti' who believes celebrities are vapid and have nothing to offer. I'm an 'appreciati' who believes most 'celebrities' (not my favorite word) do a lot and give a lot... graciously, generously and frequently.
No, I'm not a gushy fan, as a true ignoranti would pronounce me. I'm a person who recognizes the value of giving, how much good it does, and the worth of the people who do it. I also value the First Amendment. You won't find me burning Dixie Chicks or Streisand CD's. Questioning Madonna's motives, or Angelina's. Denouncing Alec Baldwin, Rosie O'Donnell or Whoopi Goldberg. Quite the contrary. I uphold their First Amendment right to publicly voice their opinions. Be it an environmentalist like Robert Redford, an animal rights supporter like Bill Maher, or a gun advocate like Charlton Heston, they all have a right to their say.
And to their actions...
I applaud Sean Penn for making his way to Iraq and Iran to bear witness first hand. For going to New Orleans on the fourth day after Katrina. For arriving at midnight to sleep on a floor in the darkened city, absent cameras and lights. To pull boats through murky water and rescue people from their homes, while their President lounged in his own.
I support Harry Connick, Jr., a New Orleans' native, who did the same. Yes, cameras followed Connick and Penn as they treaded through the waters, tugging rowboats in their wake. Good! More light to illuminate the city.
Naysayers questioned their motives. But the fact is, celebrities give more than they are commended for, and do more good than they are acknowledged for, despite their detractors, who exploit their names, use their money, and greet their opinions with disdain. The hypocrisy of it all!
Who can forget the star-studded "A Tribute To Heroes" which aired simultaneously on the four major networks right after September 11th? Conservatives and Progressives watched, unified as a nation, and thirty million dollars were raised. The celebrities were the big draw. They offered their services and their services were taken... even expected, as if serving was their mandate. But it wasn't a mandate that made them appear. It was their grace. Like the rest of us they wanted to give.
And now, nearly a year and a half after another national disaster, celebrities have stepped up again. This time to raise money to rebuild still devastated New Orleans and the greater Gulf Region that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. They 'had to'. The government failed. Homes are not standing. Power lines aren't restored. Residents remain displaced and homeless. The Lower Ninth Ward still resembles a war zone with little sign of life.
Comic Relief 2006 to the rescue. Once again... celebrities, mainly comedians, amassed just to help.
Bushie, you're doing a heck of a job! You've expanded our government to our phones and computers, and disbanded our government from the homes where it's needed. A shameful commentary on your incompetence, your heartlessness, and your dereliction of duty.
Enter Billy, Whoopi and Robin. A night of comedy and compassion to raise money to rebuild New Orleans and return the victims of Katrina to their homes. Twenty years after Comic Relief first took the stage to battle homelessness, its troubadour trio of Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, have taken the stage once again. This time to re-house the thousands of Americans brutalized by Hurricane Katrina and George W. Bush.
Since its inception in 1986, Comic Relief has raised over 50 million dollars to aid America's homeless. And now, after an eight year hiatus, another comedy extravaganza aired last night to aid the victims of Katrina. Yet another instance where celebrities came to the rescue because the government did not.
I don't know how much money the show raised last night or in its subsequent airings today. I do know that the effort of everyone associated with Comic Relief should be deeply appreciated, as should the donors nationwide who came forward to help our brothers and sisters.
Like previous Comic Relief shows, this show played pretty "blue." No lack of four-letter words or sexual hijinks, which some might consider profanity. Hence, conservatives and religious groups may demonize the effort. But before attacking the show, the holier-than-thou crowd might consider the following: Profanity doesn't kill. Neglect and abandonment do.
And B-U-S-H is a four-letter word. Eat that emeffers!!
On a personal note:
A portion of the money collected from Comic Relief 2006 will go to help the animals who were hurt and abandoned during the disaster. That makes me particularly happy, having had the great fortune to foster a beautiful Katrina dog we reunited with his family. In fact, CNN filmed the reunion. He was a 10 pound 18 month malti-poo I appropriately named "Harry Connick Louis Armstrong Marsalis" (Harry) for short. I love New Orleans music.
Harry's real New Orleans mom is Lametra, with whom I'd made friends. And believe it or not, Harry's actual name was Stormy, since Lametra adopted him from his litter on a dark and stormy night.
I tried to call Lametra today, but her phone was disconnected. So for Lametra and Harry, this article's for you!! And for those who can see his picture, this was little Harry at his first Los Angeles peace vigil, jumping on a 9 year old child, disguised as George W. Bush.
(photo by Margery Epstein)
To donate to Comic Relief 2006, please go to: comicrelief.org or call 800-528-1000.