Movie stars, pop legends, and sporting heroes joined millions of people raising funds for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster by organizing concerts, giving cash, and even sorting the mail. In Hollywood, Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio made big donations, in Britain household names from the music world plan a charity record, while in Asia more than 100 top entertainers will appear in a televised variety show.
Images of the December 26 tsunami--which killed nearly 150,000 people in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and countries as far away as Africa--have left few untouched. While governments have come under fire for offering too little aid too late, the public's generosity has been without precedent in some countries. The stars have not been far behind, and while some may be giving anonymously, others have used their popular appeal to urge fellow performers to join them and fans to be generous. "As a band, we were in a position to help, but this needs to be a lot broader effort--both by our fans and by other musicians," said Brad Delson, guitarist with U.S. rock act Linkin Park. "Obviously, there's been a horrendous, unparalleled loss of life. But a lot more people are going to die from being homeless and the problems with the water and diseases," he added in remarks carried on the band's Web site. More than 5 million people are homeless or displaced, mostly in unsanitary conditions, and experts say they face epidemics if help is not made available. Linkin Park played an outdoor concert in Thailand in June, while Hollywood heartthrob DiCaprio filmed The Beach on Thailand's Phi Phi island, where more than 300 corpses were pulled out of the water after the tsunami struck.
Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, who has donated $10 million to help the victims, was personally affected after a close friend and two sons, ages 4 and 5, were killed in Thailand. While his generosity won him plaudits in Germany, some media grumbled about amounts donated by other sporting heavyweights. Britain's Premier League of top soccer clubs has pledged 1 million pounds ($1.88 million), including Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea contributing at least 50,000 pounds each. But the left-leaning Guardian newspaper, in an opinion piece entitled "Another wave of miserliness from Britain's super-rich," pointed out that the same sum could be earned by a single player in less than a week.
The reaction of the celebrity world to events in Asia calls to mind previous fund-raising initiatives like the mammoth Live Aid concerts held 20 years ago to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The accompanying single, inspired by singer Bob Geldof, was rerecorded late last year, and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" raced to number 1 over the lucrative Christmas period. Proceeds will go to Ethiopia and Sudan. It was knocked off its perch at the top of the British music charts by Steve Brookstein's "Against All Odds" after he pledged all proceeds from his debut single would go to tsunami victims. In Asia, stars including action hero Jackie Chan and singer Andy Lau are remaking "We Are the World," the megaselling single written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985 to raise money for Africa's starving.
British singer Cliff Richard and out pop star Boy George will be among celebrities releasing a new song called "Grief Never Grows Old," while a charity concert for the Asian victims is being planned at the 74,500-seat Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Other stars are taking more unusual steps to collect funds. Hong Kong stars, including singers Cecilia Cheung and Jaycee Chan--son of action movie star Jackie Chan--are heading to disaster areas as volunteers, while British actresses Denise Van Outen and Michelle Collins helped to sort postal donations in London.