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Stars come together for benefit telethon

Associated Press / January 23, 2010

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NEW YORK - Grim-faced celebrities and musicians with mournful tunes set the tone for the all-star, international “Hope for Haiti Now’’ telethon, which featured two hours of desperate pleas for a desperate nation. But it ended on a hopeful note, with a buoyant call for Haiti’s revival by native son Wyclef Jean.

“Enough of this moping, man, let’s rebuild Haiti, let’s show ’em how we do it where we come from!’’ Jean shouted after singing the ballad “Rivers of Babylon,’’ with a Haitian flag around his neck.

It was a stark contrast from the opening of the telecast: no words, simply photos of Haiti’s tragic citizens as a backdrop, as Alicia Keys called for the help of angels in a somber tune.

“The Haitian people need our help,’’ said George Clooney, who helped organize the two-hour telecast. “They need to know that we still care.’’

Then, after a plea from Halle Berry, Bruce Springsteen dedicated a song for Haiti - “We Shall Overcome.’’

Since the earthquake, the entertainment world has responded with an outpouring of charity, from million-dollar donations to songs designed to raise money for relief.

On Friday night, those efforts became collective as the biggest celebrities from music, film, sports and even politics joined together for the telethon. Stars like Mel Gibson, Reese Witherspoon, and Julia Roberts manned telephone lines while CNN’s Anderson Cooper gave reports about the situation from Haiti. Heartbreaking video showed Haitians buried in rubble and badly injured, with tears and overwhelming sorrow etched on their faces.

It was not immediately known how much money was raised by the show.

Jean made one of the more personal celebrity appeals of the evening, speaking of his experience after witnessing the torment of the nation first hand.

“I carried bodies of my people in the cemetery. They should have been walking,’’ he said. “Instead they were heavy in my arms. . . . We have to make sure that the second wave never makes it to Haiti.’’

The telethon was broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles, and Haiti.