The response to the earthquake tragedy in Haiti was almost immediate, and just days afterward, millions of dollars have been raised, a lot of it through small donations of $5 or $10 transmitted through the humble text message. But there's another kind of giving that has emerged too: Single donations in much larger amounts, from the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Olivia Wilde, Tiger Woods, Madonna. Hopefully the list will grow and grow.
Why is it so gratifying though to hear about celebrities making donations? Perhaps because by doing so, they're doing something we've already done, something that thousands of ordinary people are doing. A crisis reminds us that we're all vulnerable, we're all responsible for helping. And that's what it is going to take to bury the dead, take care of the living, and rebuild Haiti.
So when George Clooney asks for your donation tonight, during the Hope for Haiti telethon he is hosting on MTV, you won't just be saying "yes" to an incredibly magnetic movie star, you'll be joining a community of people wanting to help. It's as simple as that. Celebrities undeniably bring some glamour and sparkle to the task of fundraising, and that's okay. It is after all a difficult and serious business. We're lucky to have them.
Check out the gallery below for a look at the amounts donated so far.
Gallery: Haiti's Big Givers
Taking the restaurant experience to a new level, the multi-city Latin fusion sushi empire SushiSamba is holding its first "Meet&Tweet" on January 20. This mojito- and sake- fueled evening will bring together the restaurant's Twitter followers to meet and eat -- and tweet -- in person. (Because nothing gets the fingers tapping like a TwitterRoll -- that's tuna, avocado, jalapeno, and fresh tomato salsita in rice paper, priced at $8). Those present will be encouraged to tap bite-sized messages about their bite-sized meal throughout the evening, using the hashtag #sstwtup. Which means those who aren't present can follow the action at the restaurant's Twitter account (@SUSHISAMBA). The menu includes salt and pepper squid, chilled Mediterranean mussels on the half shell, and lobster taquitos. In Las Vegas and Chicago, the event takes place 6:30 to 8:30 p.m, while in New York and Miami, the event runs from 8 to 10 p.m. More info is available at www.sushisamba.com.
Highlights of this year's festival, which runs from May 28 to June 13:
* The Dock Street Theater, one of America's first (pictured at right), reopens after a three-year renovation with a work selected to re-create and celebrate history: the English ballad opera "Flora," which, in 1835, in Charleston, was the first opera performed in the American colonies. Neely Bruce conducts.
* The Milan-based Colla Marionette Company works its small-scale, big-impact magic with "Philemon and Baucis", a marionette opera composed by Franz Joseph Haydn for Prince Esterházy on the occasion of a 1773 royal visit by Empress Maria Theresa.
* The young New York-based Gallim Dance, with Juilliard-trained dancers, performs "I Can See Myself in Your Pupil." This dance troupe won raves last summer at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
* Under the stars and a canopy of oak trees, Lizz Wright and Fabiana Cozza will be among the sultry performers in an outdoor jazz series.
* Sample a range of string ensembles, from the post-classical quartet Brooklyn Rider, associated with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, to the banjo- and fiddle- players the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
With 45 productions total, the festival will have you either in the audience or discussing a performance morning, afternoon, and evening. Don't forget to make time for a stroll down the cobblestone streets, and taking in historic sites. Fort Sumter, where the first engagement of the Civil War took place, still guards the harbor. Tickets available at http://www.spoletousa.org/
At the launch of the Brooks Brothers "Mad Men" limited edition men's suit, available from October 19 to November 8 (the date of the season finale) for $998, the actors on the AMC show fessed up to how much their personal wardrobes - and lifestyles - have changed since they started the show. It turns out they've learned their lesson: the power of the well-tailored suit.
"Before the show, my inspiration for clothing came from Pearl Jam and Nirvana: ripped clothes and long hair," says Rich Sommer. "I had zero suits. I was living in New York, temping, and when they'd ask us to wear suits, I'd always say I don't have one." But since he began playing Harry Crane, head of the television department at Sterling Cooper, his style has changed. "I've become more of a fashion conservative. When my time on the show ends, I think I'll wear suits. I love the masculinity of wearing a suit. People respect you. Today I was riding a bus in my scrubs and a guy elbowed me full on. In a suit that wouldn't happen. There's something that commands respect. Growing up, I never understood my dad wearing a suit, the presentation of a suit, but there's something about it, it's a put togetherness. There's a status that comes with the suit. It's not explicit, it's implicit." Sommer has started adding accessories to complete his new look. "I like cufflinks, I have one pair I wore to the Emmy's – I got them for Fathers' day, from my daughter, she's 2 years old. They have a locket with photos of my daughter, and they're monogrammed. I love them. I always wear them with a French cuff shirt."
"I usually wear jeans or hiking pants and comfortable shoes," says Michael Gladis, who plays Paul Kinsey, a copywriter on the show. But he's been wearing suits more often: Thanks to "Mad Men," he now has 13 or 14 suits in his closet. "There's something intangible about it," he says. A guest at the party chimes in: "I'm always attracted to men who wear suits." He accessorizes with a pocket square, just in case he encounters a woman crying, he says.
"Janie turned me into a suit guy," said Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell on the show. The suit goes along with the exciting life he has growing out of the show's success. "To put on a suit is a celebration, to say that there's something fantastic going on. If you own a lot you have a lot of celebrating to do," That description fits him. "The greatest thing" that has come as a result of the show's success "is that there's this group of artists so moved by the show who we get to meet." For example, he recently met Swiss film director Barbet Schroeder. "He was telling me stories of being with Polanski when he was trying to sell 'Knife in the Water,' Kartheiser recalls. As far as other ways his lifestyle his changed: "I get more manicures." Just then a waiter swoops by offering him fried chicken. Kartheiser passes, and the waiter says, "Would you like me to bring you some dessert?" "See, that's how good my life is now: that happens."
In honor of "Blog Action Day," we asked some of the stars of the popular AMC series "Mad Men" what they do to make the world a better place (aside from entertaining millions of us every Sunday night with their ad agency antics -- and come to New York for a night to help Brooks Brothers launch its "Mad Men" suit, which we'll be telling you about later). Although the show is set in the 1960s, their concerns are very current.
"What we put into our lives, what we choose to eat, is the biggest statement I can make," says Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell, an Account Executive at Sterling Cooper. Kartheiser wasn't always as aware. "I ate meat four years ago and smoked cigarettes four years ago," he says. It wasn't easy, but he gave both up. "If I didn't accept they were bad, I never would have quit. But that was the first step. I see a lot of things I need to do to change. We need to take that step and say this is something I should do, and even if don't do it yet, that's a step in the right direction," he says. He has taken action to reduce consumption and protect the environment. "I don't drive - I only take public transportation, and I don't believe in having children," he says. He also doesn't wear fur and doesn't buy leather. And just where might you find him eating a vegetarian meal? Café Muse, in his neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Janie Bryant, the Emmy-award-winning costume designer of the show, is in charge of some of the smallest details to give the show an authentic 1960s feel, but when it comes to doing good, she has one basic principle. "The most important thing I can do to improve the world is to have positive thoughts. That's what creates everything: energy, recycling, reinventing. It all comes from there," she says.
Rich Sommer, who plays Harry Crane - the head of the Television Department on the show - says, "I have two causes I think of every day," His brother spent a year in a half there in the military and made it home. "I oppose the war, but I support the guys who are over there. So I support Operation Homefront," a nonprofit that supports our troops and helps the families they leave behind, Sommer says. His other cause: gay rights. "These are people I live with, work with, am friends with," he says, noting it's not right that they may be treated differently back in his home state of Minnesota than in New York or California.
Before Jay-Z took the stage on September 11 at Madison Square Garden, the sponsor of the concert, Absolut vodka, hosted a reception at the Garden's private clubhouse. I accepted the invitation not only because I knew the concert would rock - and it did! - but because I was curious to find out how Absolut vodka positions itself these days.
When I started my career in the mid-1990s, Absolut was the only brand I knew to ask for when I ordered drinks with my girlfriends. But when those outings turned into dates and toasts over promotions and engagements, it seemed like there was always a new fancy or unusual vodka to try (potato? organic?). Still, in my mind Absolut remains tried and true, with that royal blue lettering and beloved clear bottle. When ordering flavored vodka, I've never asked for any other brand.
Headed to the reception, though, I realized my Absolut knowledge was sadly out of date. I could not recall what had replaced the legendary ads featuring artist-decorated bottles, the campaign that had cemented my loyalty: In high school, I plastered the pink walls of my bedroom with those ads, carefully torn from my parent's magazines.
In the comfy confines of the Garden's wood-panelled clubhouse, I quickly got up to speed thanks to Alisa and Kris Wixom, who both work on the Absolut campaign for TBWA Chiat/Day New York.
When he wasn't planning some of the most memorable parties in New York and in jet setters' playgrounds -- Caroline Kennedy's wedding, galas for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York City Ballet, birthdays for Bette Midler and Saul Steinberg, White House holiday parties for President Clinton -- Robert Isabell applied his meticulous design sensibilities to his home. With his passing in July, the experience of attending one of his legendary fetes can never be repeated, but Sotheby's is making it possible to own some of his collection of 20th century design, with an auction scheduled for December 17.
Gallery: Isabell Design Trove
For a certain type of man and woman, one of summer's greatest pleasures is puffing on a cigar on a steamy evening, gazing at the stars, reflecting (or not) on a day well spent at leisure. Now you can have that pleasure with some added panache. Cuban-born artist and illustrator Ruben Toledo -- perhaps you've seen his work in Vogue or Visionaire, or on the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Momu in Antwerp -- has created a limited edition cigar box (only 2,000 were made) featuring La Flor Dominicana cigars from the Dominican Republic described as having a "full-bodied smoke" with "sweetness" and "complexity." The box is white lacquer featuring a Toledo illustration of a woman; another illustration, also of a woman, is featured on the wrappers.
These are some beautiful cigars, and for a beautiful cause, too: all profits of the project will be donated to El Museo del Barrio, the New York museum devoted to Latin American and Caribbean art. Toledo and his wife, Isabel Toledo -- who designed First Lady Michelle Obama's inauguration day outfit and is the subject of an exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology on view now -- are major fans and supporters of the museum, and are responsible for turning the museum's annual gala into one of the most festive benefits in Manhattan. "This is a project with so much meaning for both my wife and I. El Museo is a symbol of pride for Latinos, and cigars are such a potent symbol of our heritage," Toledo said. The price is $782.10 a box (including tax). To purchase, call 646-243-2675.
At the Wildlife Conservation Society's black-tie gala last week, the accessory of choice was a minaudiere -- that's the tiny gem of a purse, fanciful and impractical (pronounced me-no-dyear -- the term is of French origin) -- from Judith Leiber.
This designer has been a longtime favorite, for charity ball goers, and a few First Ladies, too. But it was unusual to have so many of the crystal-laden purses -- which sell for roughly $3,000 to $7,000 -- out on the same night. We counted more than 20. Why so many? The cause of the evening, protecting wildlife around the world, certainly had something to do it: traditionally, many women dress to the theme, wearing zebra and leopard prints, and animal-shaped handbags -- frogs, fish, birds, lions, and cats -- were the perfect accessory. (Indeed, the collection seems designed specifically for this event!) But the Judith Leiber company also fixed the odds: as a sponsor of the event, Judith Leiber's New York boutique on Madison Avenue lent bags for the evening to many guests.
"It's fantastic, and just right for me," the chairwoman of the event, Allison Maher Stern, said of her purse in the shape of a snow leopard -- a nod to the new exhibit of snow leopards at the Central Park Zoo, where the event was held. The exhibit, which opened to the public the day after the party, is named after Ms. Stern, a Wildlife Conservation Society trustee.