ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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God bless American celebs?
In a chaotic period of American history, efforts must be made to unify a nation and lend a helping hand. But who should be America's ambassadors for such fund-raising?
For those who were at home long enough on Friday night to catch a glimpse of the widely publicized America: A tribute to heroes, you witnessed the collective efforts of about a billion celebrities making time for the "little people."
The good intention was there. The funding behind the project was there. The talent was there. But the sincerity was not.
Every few minutes the camera operator would pan across the rows of big names answering telephones to receive donations. Jack Nicholson was smiling enthusiastically. Tom Cruise stared deliberately into the camera as he laughed over the phone. Robert DeNiro looked genuinely busy dealing with phone calls, pen in hand.
I didn't believe them.
I didn't believe the hundred or so celebrities sitting, smiling as their phones rang off the hook with crazy television viewers calling just to see which celebrity would answer their call were actually glad to be there.
I don't think it's possible that the inevitable kind of harassment they must be receiving while chatting to these "donors" didn't bother them. Nor do I believe no one was harassing them or bombarding them with questions and comments completely irrelevant to the cause.
So I wondered, are they really answering those phones?
My television called out to me to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity "call and talk to Brad Pitt!" and, while you're at it, donate some cash.
So I did. I called the 1-800 number allocated for donations from Canada and the United States. I called and called and called. For at least an hour, my hand was on the redial button.
I never got through.
As terrible as it may sound, I was participating in the same sort of stupidity I imagine thousands of others were.
There was no way I wasn't going to ask who I was speaking to. There was no way I wasn't going to freak out if some big time celebrity was just sitting there, talking to me on the phone. But while I was driven by this childish, materialistic desire, I also wanted to donate money and I couldn't.
My own reaction and attitude toward the situation is what makes me think having celebrities as a marketing tool to make me donate money is wrong. Having to wait and wait to donate my money is even worse. And, I'm sure the lines were busy only because there were a million other schmucks like me trying to bust through to chat for twenty minutes to Tom, Jack or Brad.
And while I was glued to the screen, anxiously awaiting who would be the next big star to say the scripted tribute to a hero or who would step up next and sing their best wartime song, I realized I felt like I was watching the Grammys or the Oscars.
I realized I wasn't paying attention for the right reasons.
So the real issue here is what the entertainment industry was trying to accomplish Friday night. The entertainment was impressive. The individual tributes to the heroes were inspiring. The seriousness of the venue was impressive.
But what does that say about us? Why are celebrities needed as bait to lure the sympathy out of our wallets?
In times of genuine crisis, when a city and, evidently, a nation needs help to rebuild, is Celine Dion the appropriate poster-girl for "God Bless America?"