In a sign of what may be seen as an emerging, successful alternative to expensive red carpet charity events, Saturday night’s two-hour Lead With Love: Project Angel Food Emergency Telethon, which aired live on KTLA 5, smashed its fundraising goal. The virtual event exceeded its $500,000 goal by nearly $200,000, totaling more than $700,000 during the all-star event, at very little cost to the Hollywood-based nonprofit Project Angel Food.
A-list names, including Sir Elton John, David Furnish, Jamie Lee Curtis, Matt Bomer and Sharon Stone, contributed brief segments celebrating Project Angel Food’s contributions to Hollywood’s underserved community. Furnish and Curtis both mentioned bringing their families with them to volunteer at the facility, which prepares and delivers tens of thousands of meals each week to people in need.
The list of musical names was fierce, with taped performances from Kelly Clarkson (U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”), CeeLo Green (“Lead Me”), Deborah Cox (Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”), Billy Idol and Steve Stevens (“To Be A Lover”), Annie Lennox (“Walking on Broken Glass”), Kristin Chenoweth (Alabama’s “Angels Among Us”) and Juan Pablo Di Pace (“Without You”). Josh Groban wowed with the finale performance of “Lullaby.”
Providing a crucial statistic, Yvette Nicole Brown said 73% of the community that Project Angel Food serves is people of color, including nearly 30% of its meals are given to African Americans.
“Project Angel Food embraces all Angelenos, and I think that is just delicious,” Brown said.
For “NCIS” fans, dreams of a (virtual) reunion came true, as several of its past and present cast members, including Pauley Perrette, Rocky Carroll, Michael Weatherley, Sasha Alexander and Brian Dietzen gathered, via Zoom.
“There are a million fans out there that are really happy now,” Perrette, who is on Project Angel Food’s board of trustees, said. “These are some of the best people on the planet right here.”
In addition to “NCIS,” “Will & Grace” was represented, as longtime Project Angel Food supporter Eric McCormack cohosted the telethon, Debra Messing gave a taped message and Sean Hayes called in to speak with McCormack. Both reminisced about celebrating Hayes’ 50th birthday this week with a “socially distanced surprise party.”
“Welcome to old age, pal,” McCormack, 57, joked to Hayes.
Project Angel Food has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic strongly with a small staff this year -– including some laid-off L.A. chefs –- as its operations have continued through the coronavirus quarantine.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and clients at Project Angel Food, who were already struggling with illnesses, were at even more risk, they didn’t see obstacles. They saw the need,” Furnish said.
Sheryl Lee Ralph and KTLA’s Jessica Holmes cohosted Saturday with McCormack.
Other celebrities appearing on tape or live included Joely Fisher, Rachel Lindsay, Valerie Bertinelli, Margaret Cho, Carson Kressley, Sandra Lee, Jonathan Adams, Duff Goldman, Alexandra Shipp, Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Charo, Eileen Davidson, Kirsten Vangsness, Lauren Tom, John Goodman, Jimmy Smits, Tyler Henry, Cheryl Tiegs, Josh Flagg, Sasha Roiz, Olivia Newton-John, Danny Trejo, Marlee Matlin, Lawrence Zarian and Gregory Zarian.