July 4, 2008 -- July Fourth is a reminder of our forefathers, whose great minds and independent thinking helped build the nation we have today. I wonder what George Washington would have thought of Flava Flav? Would Betsy Ross have blushed at the antics of Lauren Conrad and her crew from "The Hills?"
In the past decade, Andy Warhol's theory about everyone getting "15 minutes of fame" has come into play more than ever. But it seems it's not the fame and the 15 minutes that really matter. It's what use those 15 minutes are put toward.
Some stars use their platform for nothing but themselves: the out-of-control teen queens and the self-serving Hollywood hunks. Kim Kardashian gets her behind insured. Heidi Montag blabs about how she and boy-toy Spencer Pratt are finally ready to marry.
So, on this Independence Day, let's refocus our A.D.D. mindset on some celebrities who are actually making a difference. In the past few years, I have come to know, love and respect quite a few, not just for their luscious Louboutins, their darling De La Rentas, or their beautiful Burberrys, but because they are movers and shakers making a conscious effort to make a difference in our society.
The other night at Crustaceans in Beverly Hills, my girl Vivica Fox and I were chillaxin' with the one and only Queen Latifah, an everyday hero whose generous spirit is only surpassed by her talent. Several years ago, Latifah and I were on tour through the Midwest, and every day, as we did the rounds of the way-too-early morning shows, we would hear of some local disaster. Without batting an eye, and certainly not for the press, Latifah would donate that day's salary to the victim of each tragic story. It was truly remarkable and I saw it myself.
Latifah has also been influential in raising funds and gaining support for celeb chef James Beard's charity Meals On Wheels, an organization that delivers more than three million meals to the sick and elderly, who would otherwise be unable to feed themselves.
Another of my fave friends is the always picture-perfect supermodel and supermom Christie Brinkley. Her charitable work is extensive and widespread, everything from giving back to the USO by entertaining the troops, to being a dedicated activist for many causes including, UNICEF, handgun control, breast and ovarian cancer and the environment.
Brinkley has raised more than $500,000 and brought her poise, infectious enthusiasm and knowledge to Senate sub-committees, where she has testified about the dangers of the nuclear industry, and shows like "The View."
As we all know, no celebs worth their weight in Oscar gold do more good for others than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This glam squad is almost as famous for their films and acting as they are for their never-ending charity work, from the rebuilding of New Orleans to advocating the rights of war refugees with the United Nations High Commission. I find that a whole lot more inspiring than whether they are having twins or getting a divorce -- depending on the tabloids' spin of the week.
One of my favorite leading men is Pierce Brosnan. Before he ever dreamed of starring and singing alongside Meryl Streep in the soon-to-be-released movie version of "Mama Mia," he and his stunningly captivating and incredibly generous wife Keely Shaye donated proceeds from their wedding coverage to help fund a Tibetan school.
For many years, Brosnan has been a prolific painter who has distributed the proceeds from his artwork to many of his favorite charities. As a couple, he and his wife have found more ways to do good by doing good things. They have taken a passionate role in environmental issues such as Maine mammal and wetland protection and clean-air and clean-water campaigns.
Often the funniest people in Hollywood have the most caring hearts, as demonstrated by the generously gifted actor Jim Carrey and his sexy and smart real-life leading lady, Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy has taken her own challenges with an autistic son and turned them into a crusade to help millions of families.
Thanks to her star power and sense of humor, McCarthy has been able to take usually serious subject matter like pregnancy, motherhood and, now, autism and turn it into informational and groundbreaking bestsellers that have helped countless families. Both McCarthy and Carrey are firm believers that knowledge is power, and, let's face it, there are not a lot of couples as knowledgeable and powerful as this dynamic duo.
Love can find you in the strangest places. That is exactly what happened for my boy, Charlie Sheen, the hilarious star of "Two and a Half Men." Two years ago, while attending the Butterfly Ball, a fundraiser for his favorite charity, Chrysalis, which helps the economically disadvantaged and homeless find jobs and homes, Sheen came across the glamorous and philanthropic Brooke Mueller. Talk about instant good karma: The terrific twosome recently got married and requested that, in lieu of the ubiquitous toaster or coffeemaker wedding presents, donations be made to Chrysalis, the charity that brought them together.
It's not just individual celebs who are getting in on the giving action. Many companies and organizations have recognized the benefit of star power and have enlisted some famous faces to help raise funds for their causes. Foundations like Youthaids, the Creative Coalition, and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital have all looked to the stars to get the good word out.
Avon Cosmetics recently named Reese Witherspoon as their charity foundation's honorary chairwoman. Witherspoon, along with Avon's other spokeswoman, Salma Hayek, is devoted to working on programs that draw attention to women's issues, such as breast cancer and domestic violence.
St. Jude's has made amazing strides with the help of celebrity endorsements. Originally founded by Danny Thomas in 1962, the hospital was taken over by Danny's daughter Marlo, who has kept their amazing accomplishments in children's cancer research alive and thriving, thanks in part to incredible fundraising events.
In March, I had the honor of hosting their latest benefit, The Night of a Thousand Lights, where stars like Molly Sims, Lydia Hearst, Iman, Joy Bryant and the glamorous Marchesa design duo were more than happy to lend a charitable hand. The event raised more than $300,000 for the hospital.
After seeing all of this good going on in the world, I decided to follow the lead of many of my charitable celeb friends and clean out my closet -- for a good cause. During this week of July Fourth, I will be auctioning 200 of my favorite things to wear on eBay. The proceeds will go to charity: water, an organization that helps impoverished villages in Africa build wells. After all, you can't fight AIDS if you don't have clean water to take your medications.
Several of my BFFs, such as style icon Beyoncé and comedienne extraordinaire Fran Drescher, donated autographed clothes and DVDs to be auctioned off as well. Both of these girls aren't shy about giving big either. After seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and the rest of the Knowles family founded the Survivor Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists those still in need after the horrific natural disaster.
My girl Fran is a cancer advocate who founded her charity, Cancer Schmancer, after being diagnosed with uterine cancer eight years ago. Her organization strives to educate women around the world about cancer, with the goal of ensuring that all women's cancers are diagnosed in Stage 1, when it is most curable. Both of these charities stand as living proof of the courageous spirit and unbridled generosity of these two fabulous women.
So this holiday weekend, take the time to do a little online shopping as well as some good by checking out my auction on www.ebay.com (user name: phillipblochcharityauction).
And the next time you feel the need to give in to celeb sightings, tabloid tattle and gossip gab, go for the gift that keeps on giving: Follow your fave celebs' hearts and not their heartbreaks. Be an independent thinker this Independence Day and give 'til it feels great!
CLICK HERE to learn more about Phillip Bloch and his work.