Idol Chatter

by Amy and Nancy Harrington, Pop Culture Passionistas
A celebrity chef sheds light on a still devastated nation, an Oscar winning movie gives one charity a boost and a potential Idol loses himself in music.
Anthony Bourdain Has No Reservations About Telling It Like It Is
If you’re looking to learn how to chop an onion or make the perfect beef stew, then “Anthony Bourdain’s: No Reservations” is not the cooking show for you on a good day. The edgy celebrity chef usually travels to unusual places like Rajasthan, Beiruit and the Rust Belt. But this week, he went to a destination even more unexpected than usual – Haiti. After the devastating earthquake in 2010 that took over 300,000 lives, this is not a spot you can expect to see Rachel Ray anytime soon.
The thinking man’s foodie, Bourdain understood the gravity of what he was doing. The episode started with him reflecting on the decision to shoot in Haiti with some locals. Bourdain put it into perspective, “The man is thinking, ‘You’ve been here before. You and someone before you. And someone before you. You came by with a sympathetic look on your face. You took my picture. You made me hold my baby. You said you were gonna show this in America and nothing happened. I’m tired of doing this little circus show for you…’ I worry though you know what you say because here we are, we’re here making a show. And what are we showing on this show? Are we part of the problem?”
True to style, Bourdain didn’t try to polish up the rough spots – not that it would be easy to do in the still ravaged nation. But what he also, once again, managed to do was to focus on another side of a place that most have us have only seen through one distorted lens.
Part of doing that was to connect through food – showing us the local greens flavored by crab, rice and beans, chicken — but with a side of hand sanitizer to combat the cholera that is systematically killing people. But an attempt to feed hungry children by buying out a local vendor, erupted in anger and shoving among the hungry crowd – a misguided attempt to help but an attempt to help, nonetheless.
Yet Bourdain managed to find some soul to life in Haiti. His guide for part of the show, Sean Penn, showed him a community of artists in the midst of the rubble. The Academy Award-winning actor described the found object pieces as “bodies broken apart, nails in mouths, using pieces of a baby doll. Poverty makes people feel broken apart like an earthquake in the first place. So that’s been the constant earthquake in this country.”
It may be hard to look at the brutally honest accounts of unburied dead, starving children and irreparable destruction and still see hope. But here’s where we look for inspiration in this tale. There are people in the world like Anthony Bourdain, who will air what he calls “not, I know the most uplifting episode ever.” There are people who will use their celebrity, risk alienating fans and upsetting a network exec or two to tell it like it is and do their part for people half way around the world.
To find out more about Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization visit his website or the online home of “No Reservations.”
The Stuttering Foundation Benefits from ‘The King’s Speech’
Over the past few months a very small organization has received a very large gift from an Oscar-winning movie. Due to the popularity of the film “The King’s Speech,” the Stuttering Foundation saw an 80% increase in donations over the week before the ceremony. According to the organization received $25,000 in gifts during February 2011 while that same month in 2010 they took in $10,000. In December the film’s star, Colin Firth, attended a fundraiser that took in $35,000. The organization has also received increased press, including over 12,000 radio mentions and numerous free magazine ads.
The movie tells the story of King George VI (played by Firth) who struggles to overcome a lifelong stammer so that he can assume the throne. The Stuttering Foundation has been praising the film since its release for the accurate representation of those affected by the disorder.
Perhaps the reason it is so realistic is because the screenwriter, David Seidler was once a stutterer. During his Oscar speech he declared, “I accept this on behalf of all the stutterers throughout the world. We have a voice. We have been heard.”
The same night the film won four Academy Awards the foundation’s president, Jane Fraser, sent a press release stating, “It is an eloquently golden night for people who stutter. ‘The King’s Speech’ has been a godsend for the entire stuttering community.”
An Idol with Asperger’s
This year “American Idol,” in general, has raised the bar and become a more tolerant TV show. With the addition of the soft-hearted Jennifer Lopez and the tough but sweet Steven Tyler, not to mention the elimination of the bad guy Simon Cowell, 2011 promises a kinder, gentler “Idol.” And embodying the spirit of tolerance is the welcome addition of James Durbin in the top 13 finalists.
Durbin came to the competition in San Francisco where he blew away the judges with his spot on, crazy-high rocker voice, belting out Led Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me.” He continued to wow them in Hollywood and Vegas, and Tuesday night’s performance of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” took the roof off the house.
Perhaps the soul of the singer comes from all the obstacles he’s overcome. His dad, a touring musician, died of a drug overdose when Durbin was just nine years old. And shortly after that horrible fate, he was diagnosed with Tourrette’s and Aspberger’s Syndromes, a high functioning form of Autism. Nowadays Durbin is an unemployed dad desperately in need of a break. He claimed during his first audition, “When I sing it just all goes away. I don’t have care in the world.”
Durbin, who said music helps calm his nerves and his tics, is proving to the world (at least the millions who watch the singing competition) that people with conditions like Aspberger’s, Tourrette’s and Autism can accomplish great things. Just imagine what it would do for people living with the conditions if Durbin became the next American Idol.

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