By Sabrina Rojas Weiss
NEW YORK — Your typical posh charity benefit in Manhattan usually includes a celebrity or two, maybe a performance by an artist who was popular in the '90s and a room full of insanely rich (and generous!) people. And while all of the above were at the Museum of Modern Art last night, the benefit for "Law & Order: SVU" star Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart organization had a whole lot more: Alec Baldwin and Brian Williams ribbing each other onstage, the Manhattan District Attorney's office rubbing shoulders with the likes of Maria Bello, Wynonna Judd, Chris Meloni and Isaac Mizrahi, a live auction in which people bid the equivalent of my salary for two years for to have Bobby Flay cook for them in the Hamptons, high heels that probably belonged out in the museum's sculpture garden ...
After several real-life victims of child abuse, rape and domestic violence wrote to her about how they related to the stories on "SVU," Hargitay founded Joyful Heart to help them heal and to make them feel OK to come forward and talk about their experiences. The event included a presentation honoring "SVU" executive producer Dr. Neal Baer and words from victims involved in the organization, but after dinner the real action began: the live auction.
Jaw-dropping amounts of money were pledged to packages like an internship with Charlotte Ronson and a super-first-class trip to Sydney with travel advice from Hugh Jackman (who tried to play auctioneer himself for a minute). But then the celebrities in the crowd decided to up the ante. One package on the block was recording session by Mark Ronson, but at the last minute, Courtney Love threw in half a dozen records owned by Kurt Cobain. And then she made MY evening by getting on the stage because she thought the Christie's auctioneer was under-representing her gift. She rambled on about how she and her late husband used to sing Dolly Parton songs at home, how his Gang of Four records were part of Frances Bean's hope chest, and how much he loved legendary blues artist Lead Belly. And when the bids weren't high enough, Samantha Ronson (who DJ'ed the cocktail hour earlier in the evening), got up next to C.Love to egg people on. It was great fun to see Courtney turn up the crazy on purpose for a good cause.
On Tuesday morning (May 12), Donald Trump, president of the Miss USA Pageant, decided that the controversial Carrie Prejean, Miss California, can keep her crown. "We've really studied these photos," he said, according to E! Online. "We've made a determination that everything we've seen to date that she's done—some were very beautiful, some were risqué—the pictures taken were acceptable, were fine, and in some cases were lovely pictures. ... We are in the 21st century." Fine. But after the events of recent weeks, the "crown" is perhaps a small detail in this ever-growing saga.
First it was the photos, then the breast implant detail, and neither of those two controversies seemed to legally seal Miss California winner Carrie Prejean's fate. As a gay woman, I'm certainly disgusted by her anti-same sex marriage stance, but as an American, I believe in free speech, and am more disturbed by the concept that that sort of litmus test could be used to determine the winner of a national pageant. As much as it irks me to say so, I don't think Perez Hilton's question about same-sex marriage was fair. Did we really expect Miss California to come up with the articulate and diplomatic answer of "Well, Perez, I really believe that the question of marriage should be left up to the states not the federal government?" I don't think so. She spoke her opinion, and while I don't agree with or applaud that opinion, I applaud her for expressing it. Sadly, so did the audience.
On Wednesday night, I attended "Stand Up and Be Counted," a fundraiser for the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village
(ASYV) in Rwanda.
ASYV is a residential community, as well as high school, in Rwanda. It houses youth who lost their parents during the horrific 1994 Rwandan racial strife, when over 1 million ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. In college, I actually wrote a chapter of my honors thesis in part on the Rwandan genocide, and knowing the details of the tragedy, I was excited to be a part of an event held by such an organization.
I arrived with John Norris as my date; we walked the carpet together (I'm not sure we were fooling anyone, even though I called him my "boyfriend" twice — oh well!), and went inside to a completely packed room at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. I brushed shoulders with Whitney Port, Spencer Grammer (Kelsey's daughter) and actress Susan Egan. I think Natalie Portman may have been there too (she's on the board of the organization) but I didn't see her.
After a few speakers and an excellent short film about the residents of ASYV, artist Michael Israel put on a rock-art-interactive performance, which was actually excellent. Read More...
Katy Perry, Estelle, Robyn, Tokio Hotel and N.E.R.D. have joined forces with H&M for the clothing store's Fashion Against AIDS annual charity clothing line. Each musician has collaborated with the brand and designed a piece of clothing with a personal safe-sex slogan printed on it.
Katy's message reads, "It's what's on the outside that counts," while Estelle's says, "Life is too short — have sex be safe." In addition to music newbies, such legends as Cyndi Lauper and Yoko Ono designed clothing with slogans like, "Girls just wanna have safe sex" and "Imagine peace."
(Check out Tokio Hotel and Dita Von Teese's shirts, after the jump!)
Throughout the campaign and his months in the oval office, President Barack Obama has made service a top priority. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed Obama's lead today with his NYC Service event, and I was honored to be asked to serve as his co-host.
Mayor Bloomberg wants New York to be the nation's capital for service. His plan includes appointing a chief service officer, recruiting new volunteers and requiring schools to promote volunteering. There were quite a few notable attendees, including Caroline Kennedy, former New York first lady Silda Wall Spitzer and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who shook my hand and thanked me for coming out.
By Pete Griffin
As we speak, thousands of young Americans are rallying outside the Capitol or in meetings with their congressmen and -women, demanding action on issues of renewable energy, green jobs and putting a stop to coal-burning power plants. More than 12,000 young people from across the country invaded Washington, D.C., over the past four days to protest current U.S. policies on energy and climate change.
This revolution was organized around Power Shift, a conference that brought together college students and others from all 50 states.
In addition to the rally on Capital Hill, hundreds of these Power Shift demonstrators organized a nonviolent protest by surrounding the Capital Power Plant. Activists surrounded the entrances of the coal plant in an effort to shut it down and not let people in and out of the facility. At press time, it was unclear if anyone has been arrested at this event.
By Dave Harrison
"What does it take to be a Nobel Peace Laureate? You need three things. One, you must have a big nose. Two, you must have an easy name [to pronounce]. And three, you must have sexy legs."
Believe it or not, those words are straight from the mouth of 1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose nonviolent opposition to the apartheid rule in South Africa earned him the honor. Tutu was one of six Nobel Peace Laureates to attend the 12th annual PeaceJam Conference in Los Angeles this past weekend. The event connects young people to Nobel Peace Laureates to promote peace within their communities, but this year's celebration had a much greater goal. PeaceJam 2008 kicked off the Global Call to Action, which aims to create a billion (that's right, a billion) acts of peace in the near future.
"These young people that come to PeaceJam come for a reason. They're here to change the world, and we tell them they can," said Betty Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work in Northern Ireland. "One person can make a difference — that's our message to all of them."
By Garth Bardsley
People love to tell us how cool our jobs are. We get to travel, we meet celebrities, we know Tila Tequila. While that's all true, it's also important to note that the stress level can be high, traveling can be a pain, and every fantastic celebrity has a not-so-fantastic manager. Last week, however, was an exception. A team of us went to Mexico City to attend the 2008 International AIDS Conference, a meeting of the world's leading activists, scientists and politicians in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We took along Tara Bonistall, a young activist from Ohio who won a contest sponsored by MTV's Think community on ItsYourSexLife.com.
(by Nick Neofiditis)
As most of you have begun to see by now, we have started to roll out our coverage of G-Unit's recent trip to Africa. We went everywhere from a platinum mine to the Apartheid Museum, from the notorious former prison Robben Island to 50 Cent/G-Unit shows in South Africa and Tanzania — as well, of course, as the meeting of a lifetime with none other than Nelson Mandela himself. That's a story that my colleagues Joseph and Phoenix hate to remember, but here is a little reminder for you folks.
Now, as you go through and enjoy the wild coverage the crew and I were so lucky to experience, remember that not everything is always as it seems. With a little TV magic, we bring you the dopest footage from all the places we went and the amazing performances we saw ... but we've also got this great peek behind the scenes during what turned out to be one of the few hiccups in our week-long trip. As DJ Whoo Kid so bluntly explained it, "Help! There is an overload of gangstas in one elevator!" Enjoy!
What's more socially acceptable: Gay marriage or gays in the military?
That was the question posed this morning after nearly 20 college students, mostly from Harvard Divinity School and all part of the Right To Serve Tour, marched to the Times Square military recruitment office to protest "Don't Ask Don't Tell," a policy signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.
Ex-Soulforce leader and Equality Ride co-founder Jake Reitan led the demonstration. He attempted to enlist, but once he announced to the recruiters that he was gay, recruiters ordered him to leave the office or (incredibly) be arrested for trespassing. Reitan refused and was quickly led away in handcuffs in front of picketing Right To Serve students and hordes of Times Square gawkers. An hour later, he was released from police custody with a summons to appear in court by the end of July. Read More...