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Clooney takes lead in third celebrity telethon

In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, George Clooney and MTV Networks are organizing a megawatt line up of musicians, film and TV stars for a national telethon looking to be successful in raising funds as previous disaster telethons have in the past.
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In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti that has killed up to tens of thousands of people, George Clooney and MTV Networks are organizing a megawatt line up of musicians, film and television stars for a national telethon looking to be successful in raising funds as previous disaster telethons have in the past.

“He's been on the phone for three days straight with almost no sleep,” Clooney's rep told PEOPLE when he skipped the Critics' Choice Awards Friday in order to prepare for the Haiti telethon. “George knows how to do this well. It's his third one.” The “Up in the Air” actor and humanitarian was involved in organizing both the Sept. 11 and the South Asia tsunami telethons.

With specific details still being worked out, the two-hour telethon, airing Jan. 22, will be similar to past disaster events featuring musical performances and an all-star ensemble of Hollywood celebrities offering viewers the opportunity to pledge money.

Just how helpful are the celebrity telethons? Here's a look:

Sept. 11From giant corporations to Hollywood's finest, the star-studded national telethon for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was deemed a huge success. Called America: A Tribute to Heroes, the show raised more than $100 million with all proceeds going to the September 11th Fund, the United Way and the New York Community Trust — all which provide immediate support in cities affected by the events.

Planned in just seven days, the telethon aired live from New York, Los Angeles and London on Sept. 21, 2001, and was shown uninterrupted on 35 separate broadcast and cable networks simultaneously. It was seen by 59.3 million viewers.

Film producer Joel Gallen helmed the telethon along with Clooney, and team up again for the Haiti telethon. Gallen said his job was made a little easier with the acceptance of every celebrity he approached on extremely short notice. With musical performances from Bruce Springsteen, U2, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder all signed on, Gallen said it was Clooney who suggested having multiple stars, from Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise to Julia Roberts, handle the phones — and speak directly to charitable donors.

The show was capped off with two emotional songs: Celine Dion singing “God Bless America” and Willie Nelson leading an all-star version of “America the Beautiful.”

South Asia tsunamiUsing the same format of the Sept. 11 telethon, Hollywood joined forces again in an effort to collect money for the Red Cross after a tsunami ripped through South Asia immediately following a Dec. 26, 2004, quake that devastated Indonesia, Thailand and other neighboring countries.

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Clooney was one of the lead organizers of NBC's tsunami relief telethon, Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope, which aired on Jan. 15, 2005. It featured performances by Madonna, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera, Wonder again and others.

NBC carried the two-hour telethon and ran it on six other NBC Universal-owned channels. The concert was seen at least in part by some 19.5 million total viewers.

In addition to the musical acts on the show, Clooney, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio and Halle Berry joined a team of celebrities who answered phones, taking pledges from viewers. The tsunami relief telethon raised $18.3 million for the American Red Cross International Response Fund.

Hurricane KatrinaBen Affleck and Bruce Willis (among others) manned the phones for Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, on Sept. 9, 2005, to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The telethon was broadcast on more than 29 channels and raised an estimated $30 million for the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Jennifer Aniston was one of the volunteer celebs who made a direct appeal for funds. “All across the Gulf coast some babies are still separated from their parents,” said the actress. “These children will need a lifetime of support — support that you and I can begin to provide right now. So please help.”

And with the help of such musical performances by Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Dixie Chicks and Neil Young, the telecast was seen by 22.2 million viewers.