Many celebrities are notoriously shallow people who seek the limelight like moths seek flame. The cynic in me is suspicious of the vast bulk of the “benefit” work they do. I mean, giving an unpaid performance or two, expenses assumed by some corporate sponsor anxious to demonstrate corporate conscience and bask in the spin-off glow of celebrity, amounts to very little actual effort, yet a grand win/win pay-off for both.
There are plenty of other celebrity tid-bits like guest public service announcements that fit this same general pattern – little actual work; no outlay of their own money, but a big credit in the social consciousness account. Bono, of U2, has developed quite a reputation for his good works, despite the fact it amounts to little more than jetting about, taking photo-ops with heads of state and hectoring them on how to spend taxpayers’ money, quietly avoiding the reality that he’s doing his level best to avoid the taxes he’s exhorting the expenditure of.
Thankfully, there are exceptions, albeit rare ones, that make the rule. Some, like Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington, actually give their own money to causes, often quietly. In situations where mention is made of the gifts, it’s with a view to inspiring (shaming?) their fellow celebs to chip in with actual coin, not good wishes.
The true granddaddy of exceptions, though, is Paul Newman. Here’s a guy who started a company, trading on his (good) name and brand, that donated every penny of its earnings to charity, a number that, to date, is well north of $300 M. Not that that was the full extent of his giving – it was only the most spectacular example of it. Throughout his time, he was a humble and generous patron of many good causes, all the while sidestepping personal displays of credit-taking.
Thank you Mr. Newman. Your example is more than an inspiration – it stands as a testament to the good that takes actual sacrifice and is not motivated by the need for yet more celebrity to feed a flimsy ego.