PORT-AU-PRINCE —”I’m Ben,” said Ben Stiller, looking like a lost tourist as he shook the hand of Haitian artist Philippe Dodard.
Celebrity sightings in Haiti have transformed the quake-battered nation into a red carpet.
Some lug bags of rice and dole it out to quake survivors (Sean Penn, Wyclef Jean) while others (Susan Sarandon, Demi Moore) tour the shantytown camps and hospital malnutrition wards. Still others have cut checks benefiting relief efforts for as much as $1 million (Sandra Bullock, Brangelina).
It’s a repeat of what happened in New Orleans after Katrina, which may have marked a turning point for celebrity involvement in disaster response. After that monster storm ravaged the Gulf Coast, celebrities not only appeared for photo ops but helped rebuild homes.
Whether the impact in Haiti is as tangible and lasting remains to be seen.
Although some might dismiss it as ego-tripping or publicity-mongering, the celebrity drop-ins shine a media spotlight on Haiti at a time when the public’s attention has wandered elsewhere.