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Blogging ‘Shelter from the Storm’

Soulful performances, images of victims remind us all to give
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It's Friday, which means it’s Katrina telethon day. For those who haven’t given yet (and why exactly haven’t you?), now is the perfect time to break out those credit cards.

New Orleans has a special place in my heart as my good friend George Brown (currently evacuated to Baton Rouge) lives down there — I keep thinking of the great nights we spent in Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar, a place where there’s no cover charge, great food and where musicians literally lineup with their instruments for a chance to play. There’s nowhere else in America where a place like that exists, which is part of what makes New Orleans so special.

And my heart goes out to the folks on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts. I recall driving out of a rain storm to Ocean Shores, Mississippi, just in time to see the sun break through the clouds over the ocean. Let’s create some sunshine for the good folks suffering down there right now by sending along some much needed support. Okay, with that said, let’s blog!

5:00 p.m. Randy Newman kicks things off with his song “Louisiana 1927” (We heard Aaron Neville do this song last week, but Newman wrote it). If I had it to do again, I would have chosen Randy as one of my music guilty pleasures.

5:03 p.m.Ellen DeGeneres' aunt lost her home in the storm. She along with Warner Bros. have contributed $1.5 million dollars toward the recovery effort. It’s hard not to love Ellen.

5:04 p.m.U2's Bono chimes in with “One.” Mary J. Blige joins in — kind of a bizarre duet. I read somewhere that this song is about the problems the band was going through at the time and how they finally ended up coming together.

5:08 p.m.Morgan Freeman speaks. He is class personified. The perfect choice to read that beautiful William Faulkner quote.

5:09 p.m.
Alicia Keys, looking very motorcycle gang chic, breaks out a little gospel. She’s joined other Shirley Ceaser, another gospel singer that I can't identify and Bishop Daniels. I remember having this singing teacher that said the passion that went into gospel singing required the singer to "get ugly." She used to say, “If you look pretty while you're singing, you ain’t doing it right.”

5:14 p.m.
Green Day's "When September Ends" accompanies some sad pictures of the survivors.

5:15 p.m.Jack Nicholson is serenading a caller. That's a great reason to call in. Have Jack sing you something from "The Sound of Music."

5:16 p.m.After Cameron Diaz shares a sad story, Neil Young brings a little countrified soul to the proceedings, with the song "When God Made Me." Great lyrics here: "Did he give me the gift of voice / so some could silence me?"

5:20 p.m.Chris Rock may have just said the George Bush hates black people, but he mumbled it so it was hard to tell. Dang, Chris, at least speak up like Kanye if you're going to do it.

5:21 p.m.Foo Fighters do Creedence Clearwater Revival with "Born on the Bayou." Dave Grohl is even looking a little John Fogerty-esque tonight (which is not a compliment).

5:24 p.m.The smallest victims of Katrina are shown. Hard to believe some of these kids have been separated from their parents.

5:24 p.m.The ex-Mrs. Pitt talks about the storm (well, reads off cue cards actually). It's hard not to watch her without wondering if she's really going out with Vince Vaughn. I know, now's not the time to be thinking about such frivolous things, but going from Pitt to Vaughn must be kind of a shock to the system.

As an aside, watching stars read off cue cards is not exactly exciting. I wish they would just let them speak from their hearts instead.

5:26 p.m.Mariah Carey who's been spending most of her time at the top of the charts these days, brings a new much calmer hairstyle to the proceedings. And I think this is the first time I've seen her in jeans since the 90s. The woman seems to only wear micro-skirts these days. A half hour into this, it's hard not to start to get a bit snarky. After seeing Mariah's house on "Cribs" a couple seasons ago, here’s hoping she donated as much as she spent on her home gym to recovery efforts.

5:29 p.m.Bruce Willis reads a passage from the wonderful Harper Lee. With all these southern writers being mentioned I hope they get around the Flannery O'Connor.

5:30 p.m.Paul Simon, whose voice still sounds amazing, chimes in with a song about Mardi Gras. Here’s hoping New Orleans will get to celebrate future Mardi Gras in the same decadent spirit the people have in the past. It would be more than a little sad to see that tradition go away.

5:32 p.m.Some serious horn playing — captures the spirit of the city. It’s weird and wonderful how music can just conjure a place like that.

5:34 p.m.New Orleans residents talk about helping each other as a Coldplay's "Everything's Not Lost" plays in the background.

5:35 p.m.Mississippi resident Sela Ward talks about the losses suffered by that state.

5:35 p.m.The Dixie Chicks (oh, George Bush wouldn't approve, but so what) sing a country ballad.

5:39 p.m.Jeremy Piven, Ari from "Entourage" and Ellen DeGeneres talk to callers. Love Jeremy Piven. Did you know that his mom thinks Lindsay Lohan would make a good girlfriend for him — I saw that on Access Hollywood yesterday. Um, Mrs. Piven, no!

5:40 p.m.The very sexy Don Cheadle reads off cue cards (I'm listening but dang it, I hate the cue cards). Remind me again why this guy is not a huge star.

5:41 p.m.
Sheryl Crow, aka the next Mrs. Lance Armstrong, accompanies herself on piano. I wonder how she feels about Lance already talking about coming out of retirement.

5:44 p.m.Yay, it’s Jack Black! I love how he kind of yell-talks his cue card segment.

5:45 p.m.Showing current conditions in the affected areas and what they need. It's going to take a lot of money and time.

5:46 p.m.Rod Stewart does the gospel thing with “People Get Ready.” Did you know that Rod has to pay $2 million for missing a Las Vegas performance. Maybe he can convince the casino to donate the missing money to Katrina victims instead. That way everybody wins. Somehow, I doubt the casino will go for that, but it's a thought.

5:48 p.m.Ray Romano does the cue card thing. I wish he could tell a couple jokes to lift people's spirits instead.

5:49 p.m.
A Tom Waits song accompanies some archival New Orleans footage mixed in with some of today's pictures. What a change. I hope New Orleans can be what it once was.

5:50 p.m.Some serious microphone feedback and then we get Kanye West singing "Jesus Walks." Of course, it's hard not to anticipate an outburst here. I love that he spoke his mind during the last telethon. Whether you agree with him or not, that's what America's about: Free speech and criticizing the powers that be so that things can get better. He's adding some improvised lyrics about the survivors. He mentions the Superdome. Amazing the horror stories that came out of there — were people really raped? The stories just don't seem real and I can't imagine being in that damp, musky darkness for days.

5:54 p.m.Southerner Julia Roberts reads from cue cards. I saw her on Oprah the other day comforting survivors.

5:54 p.m.Garth Brooks sings a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, "Who'll Stop the Rain." I was once down in New Orleans during a much less serious hurricane and my friend Halle and I were amazed by how many rain-themed songs they played on the radio. Back then, attitudes about hurricanes in New Orleans were a lot lighter.

Trisha Yearwood joins in. These two are engaged to be married.

5:57 p.m.Jack Nicholson reads a cue card like few can, with tons of soul. That studio seems awfully dark for sunglasses, but Jack always seems to sport 'em.

5:58 p.m.Doctor John closes things out with a song about New Orleans. Didn't I just hear on "The Daily Show" that he was criticizing Harry Connick, Jr. for being a tool of propaganda. Good to see that he's changed his tune and now is chipping in to help, just as Connick did.

6:00 p.m.That's it folks! How many stars have to tell you? Just give!