Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stars Unite in Telethon To Help Raise Money for the Victims of Haiti Earthquake

George Clooney photo: AP

Wyclef Jean and George Clooney worked together to organize participants and funds for Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief telethon presented by MTV on Jan 22. Clooney hosted the star-studded telethon broadcasted from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti. 60 countries and 60 international networks aired the Telethon. "Hope for Haiti Now" has to be one of the biggest charitable efforts ever organized. All proceeds from the telecast will be split among five organizations working on the ground in Haiti: Oxfam America, Partners in Health, American Red Cross, UNICEF and Yele Haiti.

Though the all-star telethon was titled Hope for Haiti Now, for most of its two hours, it was filled with tear-jerking, depressing moments, from mournful songs and grim-faced pleas from celebrities to the suffering faces of the quake-battered victims themselves. It took Haiti's own native son to lift Friday evening's despairing tone to one of hope and even revival.

Wyclef Jean Photo: AP

"Enough of this moping, man, let's rebuild Haiti, let's show 'em how we do it where we come from!" Wyclef Jean, the singer and producer, shouted after singing the downbeat "Rivers of Babylon," with a Haitian flag around his neck.

He segued into the joyful tune "Yele" with an island beat, as musicians danced around him, singing the refrain: "Earthquake, we see the earth shake, but the soul of the Haitian people will never break!"

Jean showcased the resilient spirit of a nation in the midst of catastrophe. On Jan. 12, a powerful earthquake struck the already impoverished country, killing an estimated 200,000 people, displacing many more and reducing much of Haiti to ruins.

The telethon, shown on all the major networks and streamed live on many Web sites, was quickly put together by George Clooney and MTV Networks, along with the help of others, to raise millions of dollars for the Caribbean country.

Leonardo DiCaprio Photo: GETTY IMAGES

More than one hundred of some of the biggest names in film, television and music participated rivaling any top awards show: Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, former President Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Tom, Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Reese Witherspoon, Mark Wahlberg, Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Christina Aguilera, Shakira, and many more. Luminaries like Steven Spielberg worked the phone banks, talking to donors.

None of the star faces were introduced, with the format focusing instead on the heartbreak in Haiti.

"Hey Steven Spielberg, it's really cool to talk to you," one woman said to the Academy Award-winning filmmaker.

John Mayer called in a $500,000 donation before the telethon began, according to a representative for MTV.

Officials did not have an immediate total for the relief funds raised by the telethon.

Mark Wahlberg, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Some stars like Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood recounted tragic moments from the quake; others like Denzel Washington offered inspirational words. Most of the musical performances were downcast, emotional songs. John Legend sang "I Feel Like A Motherless Child." Kid Rock, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow sang "Lean On Me." Beyoncé, with Coldplay's Chris Martin backing her on piano, revised her hit "Halo" with new lyrics: "Haiti we can see your halo, we pray you won't fade away."

Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon led a tribute to United Nations staff killed in the earthquake; an orphanage worker recounted how he had turned away 80 children a month even before the disaster and now feared that there would be so many more; a little girl rescued from beneath the ruins sat wide-eyed before the cameras in Port au Prince as CNN reporter Anderson Cooper told how she lost ten members of her family and now lived on the streets.

Actress Halle Berry narrated the tale of Monley, a five-year-old boy who survived more than a week trapped under concrete, curled up in a ball.

"For eight days he had no one to comfort him, no one to tell him that they loved him, and no one to tell him that things were going to be all right," she said, her voice trembling.

"He had no one because the earthquake had claimed the lives of his mother and father."

Madonna Photo: EPA

Madonna provided an UPLIFTING injection of hope with her choir-backed performance of "Like A Prayer." Check it out!

Jay-Z, Rihanna and U2's Bono and The Edge debuted a new song, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)," as Jay-Z rapped from London: "When the sky falls, and the earth quakes, we gon' put this back together, we won't break."

The telethon was broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti, where CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed quake victims and anchored news clips of the tragedy.

Haitians were able to listen on Radio One Haiti.

A crowd made up mostly of Haiti's wealthier elite gathered Friday night at Break Time restaurant, one of the only still open in Port-au-Prince, and one of the only places residents could watch the telethon.

Owner Patrick Alexis said he enjoyed seeing the celebrities but was skeptical the money would get to people who need it.

"It's easy to do a telethon on behalf of the Haitian people, but who will really get the money? I know my country, I know my people, I know the leaders," he said.

Rabbel Bertrand, 16, who was heading to New Jersey to because his school collapsed, was surprised by the attention on his country.

"I didn't realize all those celebrities knew Haiti. When you talk about Haiti, people usually just talk about the bad things," Bertrand said.

Hope for Haiti Now is available on today. Apple, the labels, and the artists are donating their shae of the proceeds from the sale of the album and any of its individual live perfromance tracks to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations World Food program, and Yele Hait Foundation. Apple, the labels and the artists are donating their share of the proceeds from the sale of the individual studio track, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) - Version 1..0",, featuring Jay-Z, Bono, The Edge, and Rihanna, to Partners in Health. The track is only 99 cents. Your purchase of the Hope for Haiti Benefit will include performances by celebrities such as Sting, Madonna, Ezra, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and more. The Hope for Haiti Benefit costs $7.99 at

Check out George Clooney talking about the fundraising event and the Hope for Haiti Benefit available on

The telethon won't be the last major celebrity effort for Haiti; BET plans to hold its own all-star telethon on Feb. 5, with Diddy and Queen Latifah as hosts. It will also be aired on MTV and VH1.
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Source: Pollstar, iTunes

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