Monday, January 31, 2005

Hollywood Comes to Davos

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which has been called a "temple of capitalist narcissism," there is, it turns out, a force beyond money and might. Its name is celebrity - and on Friday, Sharon Stone showed why.

Amid hundreds of participants at an earnest debate on "funding the war on poverty," Ms. Stone rose to her feet to say she would donate $10,000 to combat malaria in Tanzania; that country's president. Benjamin W. Mkapa, was one of the podium speakers.

Ms. Stone urged the participants to "be on a team with me" to help President Mkapa because "people are dying in his country today."

"Could you please stand up?" she asked the crowd. Over 30 people did stand up with donations and by the end of the debate, the organizers announced that they had raised $1 million.

Within a few moments, thus, Ms. Stone demonstrated how fame and a flair for drama might inject a passionate message into a complex debate. In the process she stirred a discussion among those attending about whether the conference is harnessing new trends in the pursuit of noble causes, or falling easy prey to the world's fixation with celebrity.

Since the annual gathering of over 2,000 power brokers and executives opened here on Wednesday, much attention has focused on the inclusion in their ranks of those whose renown stems not from boardrooms or bids, but from the movies and rock music, people like Bono, Richard Gere, Angelina Jolie and Ms. Stone.

Call it Hollywood comes to Davos.

Alan Cowell, New York Times

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