Actress Victoria Principal donated $200,000 to Oceana and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Director James Cameron solicited advice for the Obama administration from underwater technology experts. Gulf Aid, a May 16 concert in New Orleans featuring John Legend, Lenny Kravitz, Mos Def and Ani DiFranco, raised more than $300,000 for the Gulf Relief Foundation.
Worthy efforts, yes. But they're small potatoes compared to the haul Hollywood brought in after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake.
In the days after January's earthquake, actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt dropped $1 million on Doctors Without Borders. Madonna coughed up $250,000 for Partners in Health. In 2005, after Katrina, producer-rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs and rapper-businessman Jay-Z jointly donated $1 million to the Red Cross. Actor Nicolas Cage also gave $1 million.
Beyond the money, the grand displays stars made after Katrina and Haiti garnered attention. For the former, actor John Travolta revved up his private plane and jetted down to Baton Rouge, food supplies and tetanus vaccines in tow. Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey cut short her summer vacation to visit New Orleans and "personally assess how I could be best of service." At the NBC telethon to raise money for Katrina victims, rapper-producer Kanye West proclaimed that President Bush didn't care about black people.
Haiti also inspired a star-studded telethon, co-hosted by actor George Clooney and featuring some of music's biggest names, including Jay-Z, Bono, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake. Rapper Wyclef Jean made it the subject of one of the most ambitious text message and Twitter campaigns to date.
It all added up. As of last month, according to Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, donations to help Haiti amassed $1.3 billion, while dollars for Hurricane Katrina amounted to $5.3 billion.
King and his cohorts are hoping that the telethon for the Gulf can raise similar funds and garner more attention for this latest crisis.
"I understand bureaucracy and that some things take time, but when you're out of work, you don't need help tomorrow, you need help today," King said in a June 18 statement about the event. "I'm grateful so many friends and colleagues are coming out to support our June 21st telethon. We're going to raise all we can to help the people and also the Wildlife that need it now."