Published March 31, 2009
Before Madonna “adopts” another child from Malawi, maybe someone should ask her where the money went from her big star studded 2008 fundraiser for that country.
We tried: this column has tried to ascertain from The Gucci Foundation and from Madonna’s Kabbalah-backed Raising Malawi, where the estimated $3.7 million has gone from the February 6, 2008 extravaganza. So far: No answers.
You may recall that Madonna summoned all her celebrity friends, especially the ones involved with Kabbalah like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, as well those caught up in their own fringe religions like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
The fundraiser had some problems, however. Even though Raising Malawi had been in business for two years, it was still not approved as a sanctioned non-profit at the time. Instead, Gucci formed its own Foundation — known as a 501 c3 — to collect the money. They brought UNICEF on board to give the event a feeling of legitimacy. But in the end, the efforts expended were for Raising Malawi, an organization founded by the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles. Raising Malawi teaches the Kabbalah curriculum, called Spirituality for Kids, to Malawi orphans.
Now, fourteen months after the fundraiser, there’s no accounting for the money that came in. At the time, Gucci claimed that they’d underwritten the entire event, that $3.7 million had been raised and that it had been split between Raising Malawi and UNICEF.
But since then, the Gucci Foundation has still not filed a Form 990 tax statement, and neither has Raising Malawi. Calls to Gucci haven’t provided any information, and calls and emails to Raising Malawi haven’t been returned.
Where the money has gone — and the whole story of Raising Malawi — comes at an inconvenient time for Madonna. She’s currently back in Malawi trying to adopt yet another child, this time a four-year-old girl named Mercy. According to a well-reported story in London’s Daily Mail, the controversial pop star is getting a lot of criticism for trying to take Mercy away from her family. Madonna appeared at a hearing yesterday in Malawi to plead her case.
Mercy’s parents are dead, but her extended family — grandmother, uncle, cousins, etc — are said to be opposed to the plan. So too is Malawi’s Human Rights Consultative Committee. According to the Daily Mail, the HRCC’s executive director, Mabvuto Bamusi, called Madonna “a child kidnapper.”
"We feel Madonna is behaving like a bully," Undule Mwakasungula, HRCC’s national co-ordinator, told the Daily Mail after last Friday’s court hearing. “She has money, she has status, she is using her profile to manipulate the procedures.”
What the Mail and other sources have pointed out is that Madonna has changed her entire persona for this process. She’s dropped the 20-year-old Brazilian boy-toy she’d been parading around New York, and gotten away from the scandal of her relationship with ball player Alex Rodriguez and the consequent break up of his marriage. In Malawi she dresses conservatively, as if in a movie role, and not at all as she lives in the U.S. or U.K. It’s doubtful that the Malawi HRCC has ever seen her “Sex” book, for example.
Meantime — call it a coincidence, but the day after tomorrow — Thursday, April 2nd — Madonna is suddenly launching a charity auction on eBay for Raising Malawi. The auction is so last minute that there are no details. It’s supposedly timed to the publication of a book tied in to "I Am Because We Are," her self-serving and unsuccessful documentary about Madonna discovering poverty and hunger in Africa. (The film, which was never picked up by a distributor, is often called “We Are Because I Am.”)
Apparently on April 2nd an auction will take place at some place called the Power House Arena in Brooklyn, home to the small indie publisher PowerHouse Books. Like most Madonna events “for the people,” this will be by invitation only according to a press release buried on the internet. It’s unclear whether Madonna and her sizeable staff — all of whom she took to Malawi for the adoption hearing as well as gym equipment and nannies — will be back for the big event.
Sources say Vanity Fair magazine has cancelled its annual soiree at the Cannes Film Festival. The party usually occurs on the first Saturday night and is held at the ultra swanky Eden Roc restaurant at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes. No reason was given for the cancellation but for the obvious: the economy. Since this was one of the few sure bets in Cannes for total star power, we can only hope the mag will reconsider. ...
It seems as though CBS is continuing its real life soap opera at its daytime dramas. Last year the network axed Martha Byrne, star of “As the World Turns,” over a pay dispute. The show has lost around 700,000 viewers over the past year.
Now word comes that the network may be forcing the hand of “Young & the Restless” star Jess Walton, a twenty year vet and Emmy winner, again over pay cuts. Walton, whose witty and sexy portrayal of Jill Abbott makes the show, would seem too important to fight with.
But then again, CBS seems like it just wants out of soaps period. The network is also on the verge of canceling 72-year-old “Guiding Light,” after turning into a shadow of its former self with hand held cameras and no production values. Over on “World Turns,” there’s more controversy: none of the show’s senior players – some on the air since 1960 — have been seen in episodes this year so far at all.
And the problems aren’t only at CBS. NBC recently cast off “Days of our Lives” star Deidre Hall after 30-plus years. And at ABC there’s a rumor that Erika Slezak, the best actress on daytime, star of the show since the early 70s, may be facing the end of her run. A lot of people say soaps were killed by the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994-95, but I disagree. Megalomaniac executive producers — lampooned in the great comedy “SoapDish” — and hack writers recycled from show to show, did this genre in.
Michael Jackson’s manager, Tohme Tohme, has taken down his website at trw-advertising.com. It’s just gone. This was the website on which he claimed to be Ambassador at Large to Senegal. The Senegal Embassy in Washington DC said they’d never heard of him. According to witnesses, Tohme travels on a Senegal passport and presents some kind of letter to customs officials about his ambassadorship. “If it’s not true, then it’s pretty easy to fool British authorities,” one source sniffed. …
… I told last week about strife concerning “The Informers,” the film based on Brett Easton Ellis’s novel. Well, first of all, the movie is opening on April 24th. And second, publicists insist that the actors are fully behind it and doing promotion. Well, not Mickey Rourke. And Kim Basinger’s going to do some video thing, and everyone swears the whole cast will work the red carpet, even Ellis. …
… And yes, that was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and wife Judith at the Breakers in Palm Beach over the weekend, enjoying private life. Rooms there start at $499. …