Oh the In-"Humanity Plaza"
Mark Sanders

I turned on my televison this morning and saw Joan Rivers swinging a hammer. Her face looked like it was made of nothing more than putty and bronzer or a stylist had taken an eraser and removed all the details. She was wearing a a blazer, cropped and salmon-colored, black satin pants and showing Cynthia Nixon the proper hammering technique. And I thought to myself, is this what helping others has become?

As a way to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, NBC is staging a mass barn raising. Dubbed no doubt by marketing executives "Humanity Plaza," New York's Rockefeller Plaza is home to hundreds of volunteers who are building dozens of houses in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. Never mind the questionable logic of building these structures a thousand miles away from their intended sites and the fossil fuels (which our government would like each and every one of us to generally conserve) necessary to transport them home, there is another troubling trend beginning to plague on-air benevolence.

Although I can't be certain, I would be willing to bet the decision to build homes in Rockefeller Plaza was not out of convenience for the victims. It so happens that the plaza is a fully equipped outdoor television studio, with nary a corner that can't be broadcast. And it doesn't hurt that there is a morning show presented from that locale live each and every morning.

So line up the celebrities and the commercial endorsements. Stevie Nicks and Josh Groban rallied the troops with their voices. Jessica Alba stopped by to lend a hand and to pitch her latest movie...

Wait a minute...all the stars who are lending a hand coincidentally have a movie, television show or album recently out or forthcoming. Huh. And as the camera pans of the crowd large hand-painted signs for "Citicorp Volunteers" are held over heads.

I fear we have moved past the original selfless acts of benevolence that were so widespread among stars and regular folks. And what we are left with doesn't seem much like helping. If you have to publicize your charity, is it still charity?