Celebs and charities

L. Bird pkeets at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 25 20:58:46 CDT 2004

This article is written about UK charities and their concerns with things 
celebrities associated with them might say or do (including Pete Townshend), 
but it's sort of appropriate to our recent discussion of celebrity politics 
in the US.


Sun 25 Jul 2004
Stars face behaviour pledge


CHARITIES should vet their famous sponsors and even get them to sign good 
behaviour pledges, according to new rules being introduced to control 
celebrity endorsements.

The rules have been drawn up over concerns that the lifestyles of some stars 
could bring their charities into disrepute, but show business insiders 
warned that the rules could put famous people off getting involved.

High-profile stars including Angus Deayton, Jeffrey Archer, Pete Townshend 
and John Leslie have seen associations with charities cut short after 
negative exposure in the media.

The Institute of Fundraising, a professional body for fundraisers, said 
charities must investigate "whether any aspect of a celebrity’s reputation 
might prove harmful to the organisation’s reputation" and secure agreements 
which will set out their commitments and could even guarantee their 
behaviour while backing a campaign.

But the entertainment world warned the contracts would stifle the charitable 
spirit and could even put off people who wanted to give of their time.

Booking agent Michael Garrett, who represents several British film and TV 
actors, said: "I think it will put celebrities off from the outset. I can’t 
see how this is going to work.

"A contract to volunteer is a very difficult issue because someone is not 
being paid to do something. I can’t see the paperwork being enforced. I 
think the bureaucracy of it will make people think twice about giving of 
their free time."

Bethany Stoker, from the celebrity team of National Children’s Homes, 
arranges events involving 300 celebrities each year but felt written 
agreements could damage the relationship between stars and charities.

"That totally negates the idea that they are giving up their time generously 
for their support. If you start exchanging contracts or agreements it makes 
it more of a professional booking, which is not in the spirit of charities.

"They are very much doing it out of the goodness of their heart. Clearly a 
great deal of our job is research. You probably wouldn’t approach someone 
you had just read about in the papers or who had a reputation for letting 
people down."

Hundreds of guests were left disappointed and confused at an Edinburgh 
dinner in aid of Capability Scotland in June 2002 when TV presenter Angus 
Deayton, who was to be the principal speaker at the event, pulled out after 
revelations of his involvement with drugs and prostitutes emerged in the 

The charity said the star had cancelled the show although a memo circulated 
at the time suggested it was the organisation which had made the decision.

Edinburgh-born TV star John Leslie has found it difficult to get involved 
again in charity activity since he was cleared of sex allegations that saw 
him removed from his prime-time job at GMTV.

I can’t see how it will work. Celebrities will be put off from the outset
Leslie admitted taking cocaine and was accused of staging wild sex parties 
at his home.

In an interview earlier this year, the Scottish star stated that he had been 
"put on hold" as a celebrity supporter during the police investigation into 
sex allegations against him, but he has not been since called to help with 
more good works.

His involvement with the National Children’s Homes and Children With 
Leukaemia charities has been scaled down and consists of attending charity 
dinners. In the case of the latter charity, his name has been removed from 
the charity’s online listing of celebrity supporters.

Legendary 1960s guitarist Pete Townshend had been heavily involved in 
children’s charities in the UK and US, and had auctioned guitars and played 
at charity concerts.

The rock star’s reputation was dealt a grievous blow in January last year 
when he was arrested for accessing child pornography over the internet. 
Although cleared of the serious charge of possessing pornographic images of 
children, he was placed on the sex offenders’ register and the youth 
charities he worked with have moved to put distance between themselves and 

The Who star has admitted that two children’s charities returned donations 
from him after his arrest.

One charity source described the problems caused for the United Nations 
Population Fund when they engaged former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a 
goodwill ambassador, touring the world to promote sexual health among 
teenage girls.

A fundraiser for one major charity said: "She was a UN ambassador and was 
told the things that she should speak on and promote, but the upshot of that 
was that the UN looked stupid when she went to press conferences and said 
the wrong thing."

Lord Archer ran a number of high-profile charity campaigns including one for 
the Kurds. He was a regular host of charity events, but after his conviction 
for perjury his attempts to raise cash for charity have amounted to 
sponsorship for running the London Marathon this year.

Laura Taylor, policy officer with the Institute of Fundraising insisted 
written agreements would not be used as a legal tool against stars.

She said: "There might have been instances where they have organised to work 
with the charity and they pull out of the process. If charities are getting 
these big celebrities it is important to ensure that their reputation is not 

"It will involve talking to agents, looking at their biography, seeing what 
they have been involved with. Have they participated in something that 
wouldn’t sit well with a children’s charity? Have they said things in the 
past that could alienate people?"

'Altruism' is hard to bear

THE profile of sports and entertainment stars has long been recognised as an 
effective way to make millions for good causes or draw attention to issues. 
Large charities have specialist units aimed at fostering relationships with 
stars and their agents.

But sometimes the altruism is not all it seems. A fundraiser at one charity 
said: "They benefit from the relationship as well because they gain from 
being seen to be interested in good causes. They need us more than we need 

While most stars give time freely to back causes, others charge thousands 
for their participation.

Charities often agree to pay this if they believe the star’s participation 
will increase ticket sales, but one official at a Scottish charity said:

"Some BBC staff only do stuff for Children in Need because someone has put 
them in a Half-Nelson. They have no interest in good causes, but they will 
go on about all the work they do for charity."

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