Telethon Highlights & Lowlights: Celebs Raise $1.3 Million For Gulf Oil Spill Victims

Some of Hollywood’s biggest environmentalist stars got together on Larry King last night, to rally the nation around helping the gulf crisis. A special two-hour show aired on the barely-watched CNN network, to raise money and awareness. The money they raised was a little short, and the awareness they raised was of celebrity ignorance. Much like Obama’s new energy commission, there were very few experts out last night.


While most telethons are about helping people this one seemed more concerned about the oil soaked animals. In fact two thirds of the proceeds went to environmental activist groups, The Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation. The United Way was there for the human victims, although very few of the stars seemed concerned about that aspect of the tragedy. Robert Redford made a response so comical; that it looked like it was a SNL skit (I’m saving that for the end).

The best example of the Telethon’s focus was voiced by Chelsea Handler:

“Everybody now is thinking about the animals, and and it’s really scary, especially for anybody, you know, espec… for-for a mill… a bevy of reasons I mean we have to think about the animals out there. Everybody needs to be thinking about animals.”

Perhaps victims of the Nashville flood could have activated Hollywood behind their disaster had they shown pictures of drowning possums.

Chelsea was seated next to the very animated and annoying Jenny McCarthy at the beginning of the show, and moved over two seats after Jenny volunteered $5000 of Chelsea’s money. Every time the camera came on Jenny was mugging and gesticulating and Chelsea had moved another seat farther away from her. I’m guessing her remark might have been mocking Jenny.

But Jenny brought up a very good point. Why weren’t these celebrities donating more of their own money? The entire telethon raised about $1.3 million, which is a pittance to most of the stars appearing. There was a time when Ted Danson was making that much in a week of Cheers residuals. Sting could have raised nearly that much by playing a few songs at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding.

Philippe Cousteau Jr. was on board as the oceanic expert, and if he ever attended college, I couldn’t find it in any of his biographies posted around the Internet. I’m fairly certain that being the grandson of Jacques Cousteau gives him ample credibility, but he made a remark that I believe is scientifically wrong. He claimed:

“Oil is toxic, deadly toxic, at one part per billion in the water column.”

One part per billion is a half teaspoon of crude into an Olympic-size pool. Drinking a glass will gross you out, long before it kills you.

Ian Somerhalder chimed in with his own take on the toxicity:

“I made the mistake of getting it on my fingers and then I went to rub my eye and I didn’t pay attention that I was touching my eye and the whole thing swelled up and got red stinging …it’s-it’s really toxic, I can’t imagine having it on my entire body.”

(Although many fans of the Vampire Diaries probably do.) I mean come on, Ian, a little misplaced eyeliner would do the same thing, and THAT isn’t stopping you.

Philippe Jr. also claimed that the spill is a…

“Symptom of a bigger problem our dependence on fossil fuel we just refuse to get off. All of us have a part to play.”

Somewhat hypocritical, considering Philippe is an heir to an empire built on fossil fuel consumption. Grandpa Jacques didn’t sail out to film his documentaries. I would bet the Calypso burned more oil filming one episode of the Undersea World than most of us will use in our entire lifetime.

Cameron Diaz voiced what the whole event was really about: making sure that private planes, limousines, and imported raw organic vegan deli trays are only available to movie stars. She claimed that we all need to:

“…start making a change in the way you live: What you buy, what you drive, what you eat. You can make the difference; you can help prevent a terrible tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Victoria Principal not only repeated the debunked Al Gore hurricane chestnut, but indicated she hasn’t been looking at weather reports for the past four years:

“The reason we’re having more hurricanes is because we weren’t thinking in advance about how we treat this planet, so it’s really a wake up call on every level.”

CNN reporters Kyra Phillips and Soledad O’Brien both did nice human interest angles on the tragedy, talking to fisherman whose lives have been interrupted, although neither talked to any oil workers unemployed by the moratorium. The only time the oil workers were mentioned was when Larry asked Robert Redford about them and you won’t believe how he responded. (It’s coming).

There was a lot of blame put on BP, a little blame put on Congress, and absolutely no mention made of the President, beyond the plug Kerry Kennedy squeezed in:

“One of the things that we’re doing is trying to get people to petition President Obama to sign, um, a legislative order that will make 100,000 green jobs in the uh, in the gulf coast.”

Shouldn’t a Kennedy be aware that Congress does all the legislation?

As I mentioned before there was no sympathy for the oil economy. Ted Danson doesn’t see a problem with it:

“No more offshore oil drilling, pump the wells we got, but no more new because the risks as we see are way too high, and the benefits are not that big.”

But the funniest and most telling moment of the evening came when Larry asked a befuddled Robert Redford about what will happen to the oil workers if offshore drilling ceases. (Incidentally, I’m fairly certain that Standard Oil is now BP, but Bob doesn’t seem to be aware of that.)

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The show was closed out with a performance by Herbie Hancock and India Arie, playing John Lennon’s Socialist classic Imagine, which doesn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand. Religion, Possessions and Country weren’t really responsible for the explosion. At least Sting played Fragile, which seemed somewhat appropriate.

And just imagine where we would be…without our stars.


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