Stars came to New Orleans’s aid, in ways large and small
They’re Hollywood’s action heroes—celebrities who got hands-on helping Katrina’s victims. Faith Hill packed up her tour bus, borrowed a semi and drove from Nashville to Gulfport, Miss., with a truckload of supplies and husband Tim McGraw. “We went straight to the Red Cross headquarters and unloaded the trucks,” she said. “I wanted [people living in the shelter] to know that we as a country have not forgotten them.” Macy Gray felt the same and spent the day at the Houston Astrodome, distributing clothes and toiletries. As did Jamie Foxx, who helped out in Dallas, saying, “We’re getting food for them so they can eat, man.” Sean Penn traveled on his own to New Orleans, borrowed a boat from a friend and helped rescue stranded survivors. “There’s a lot of people out there,” he said. “We could only do so many houses.” Dr. Phil McGraw held a town meeting at the Astrodome Sept. 4 to address the emotional needs of the survivors, while John Travolta met some medical needs—personally flying 400 doses of tetanus vaccines for rescuers. Paul Simon donated two mobile health clinics (from his Children’s Health Fund) to the Gulf Coast. Julia Roberts delivered supplies to displaced people in a Birmingham, Ala., shelter, Chris Rock packed and delivered food to one near Houston, and Lisa Marie Presley pitched in at a Memphis shelter. Back at the Astrodome, Jada Pinkett Smith paid a visit to comfort some of the homeless. But the biggest star on the support scene may have been Oprah Winfrey—who arrived in Houston on Sept. 5 (with cameras in tow) with food, water, basic supplies and a message of hope: “My pledge is to keep the stories of these people alive,” she said on her show the following day. “We will not let the country forget you and what you have endured.”
Following the Concert for Hurricane Relief on NBC Sept. 2, celebrities are set to appear at several more fund-raisers, including:
• The Shelter from the Storm Concert, airing on all six broadcast networks on Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. Jennifer Aniston and Sheryl Crow will participate.
• The BET network will televise its benefit, expected to feature Russell Simmons, Diddy and New Orleans native Master P, on Sept. 9.
• MTV is touting Green Day, Paul McCartney and Melissa Etheridge on Sept. 10.
HARRY GOES HOME
For Harry Connick Jr., who honed his skills as a teen in the jazz clubs of New Orleans’ French Quarter, “It’s hard to sit in silence, to watch one’s youth wash away.” Which might explain his need to return to his devastated hometown and travel by boat through the city’s murky flood waters at the invitation of the Today show. “It looks like Pop’s house made it through,” he told the show’s crew as they passed by his father’s home, still standing. On his Web site, Connick—who says that he hasn’t slept in days—writes that his immediate family is safe, but that he has not yet heard from many other loved ones. Still, he writes, “New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory.” To that aim, Connick, 38, has been named the honorary chairman of Habitat for Humanity’s long-term rebuilding plan for the Gulf Coast. “I will do everything within my power to make that happen.” As for his beloved city? Connick smiled at the sight of a bar open for business on Bourbon Street. “Man, if this isn’t a sign of New Orleans coming back to its former state.”
Celebs are coming out in full force with donations to the hurricane relief efforts
JOHN GRISHAM $5,000,000
STEVEN SPIELBERG AND FAMILY $1,500,000
CELINE DION $1,000,000
GEORGE CLOONEY $1,000,000
DIDDY AND JAY-Z $1,000,000
NICOLAS CAGE $1,000,000
OPRAH‘S ANGEL NETWORK $1,000,000
HILARY DUFF $250,000
PAT SAJAK $100,000
SERENA WILLIAMS $100 for every ace
EMERIL LIVE…IN VEGAS
His three wildly popular New Orleans restaurants may be shut indefinitely, but celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse had no intention of letting Hurricane Katrina get the best of his family. His daughter Jillian, 23, was scheduled to wed Nathan Whittington on Sept. 3 in the Big Easy, but following the storm, Lagasse had to cook up a new plan. His solution: same date, different location—the luxurious Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, where Lagasse opened the Delmonico Steakhouse in 1999. Although many invitees—including the groom’s parents and Emeril’s mother—couldn’t make the rescheduled celebration, almost 25 guests feted the newly married couple. Of course Lagasse, 45, who doesn’t yet know the full extent of the damage to his properties, will soon have to deal with the aftermath of the storm. His first order of business will be establishing an employee disaster relief fund to assist displaced and unemployed workers from his restaurant.
Lost and Found Department
They once were lost. Now—thankfully—they’re found, good news in an otherwise devastating story. R & B singer Fats Domino, 77, turned up at New Orleans’s Superdome after his daughter said he was missing. Ellen DeGeneres, 47, was happy when her Aunt Helen, 83, was found in a Mississippi shelter. And musician Dr. John, 63, was relieved when he heard that “my daughter made it to Lafayette and my grandson just turned up. I knew the kid would survive—anyone who knows something about hunting, trapping and fishing can survive.”