Stars Come Out in Force for Tsunami Aid Telethon

Morgan Freeman kicked off Saturday night’s Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope telethon with tales of survival from the 26 December disaster in South-east Asia.

Freeman told the story of a 60-year-old man who had survived under a pile of rubble for two weeks, living only on rainwater, and of a woman who went into labor as the tsunami hit–and then named the child she gave birth to on a hilltop in India Tsunami.

The movie star ended his opening plea for American Red Cross funds by stating, “Miracles do happen.”

The two-hour, commercial-free special also featured passionate pleas for help from Clint Eastwood, Halle Berry, Bruce Willis–who was joined in New York by daughters Rumer, Tallulah and Scout–Robert De Niro, Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia, Kevin Spacey, Tim Robbins, pals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, celebrity couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Renee Zellweger, and Hugh Grant, who confessed to writing a check even though he’s “famously stingy.”

Meanwhile, Madonna performed John Lennon‘s peace anthem “Imagine” via satellite from London and rocker Brian Wilson performed “Love & Mercy” as a tribute to pal Markus Sandlund, who was among the victims of the killer wave and is still missing. Photographs of the Swedish cellist, who performed on Wilson’s Smile album and tour, were dotted around the studio as the former Beach Boys star sang.

The musical highlight of the telethon came as reclusive Pink Floyd star Roger Waters performed “Wish You Were Here” with Eric Clapton. Other musical performers included Maroon 5, Norah Jones, Mary J Blige, Gloria Estefan, Sarah Mclachlan, country star Kenny Chesney, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Nelly, Diana Ross, Annie Lennox, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Wonder, who duetted with India.Arie.

And stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Quincy Jones, Tom Selleck, Johnny Depp, James Caan, Quentin Tarantino, Hilary Swank, Nicolas Cage, Don Cheadle, Kate Hudson, Rob Lowe and George Clooney, who helped organize the telethon’s celebrity effort while recovering from back surgery, were among those who answered telephones in the NBC/Universal studio in Los Angeles as viewers dialed in their donations. They also signed Red Cross mugs, scripts and telephones, which were given away to the most generous callers.

Almost 95 per cent of money raised by the telethon, which also featured footage of the tsunami disaster and the relief effort, will go directly to aiding the survivors of the tragedy. The remainder will help support groups acts swiftly and efficiently.

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