Hollywood practices random acts of red-carpet kindness

The Hangover actor Zach Galifianakis’s date for his movie premieres isn’t arm candy  – it’s his 87-year-old friend who he saved from homelessness. Bravo, says Simon Usborne

A welcome new exhibit in the case for men occasionally being good people: Zach Galifianakis. It emerged this week that the bearded American comedian has an unlikely friendship with an elderly former laundrette employee whom he rescued from financial ruin with the help of Renée Zellweger.

Galifianakis reportedly invited Elizabeth “Mimi” Haist, 87, to the Los Angeles premiere of the third of his Hangover films. She did not appear in coverage of the event on Monday night but was on Galifianakis’ arm at an earlier premiere, in 2011. Details of their relationship came to light this week with news of a planned documentary about the woman, called Queen Mimi.

The story goes that Mimi was working in Galifianakis’ local laundrette in Santa Monica in the early 1990s, folding clothes for tips. They built up a rapport. Much later, the comedian learned Mimi had been living in the shop for 18 years after being made homeless following the breakdown of her marriage. Discovering she had no family members to support her, Galifianakis began renting her a one-bedroom apartment two years ago. Bizarrely, Star magazine reports, Zellweger, of Bridget Jones fame, stepped in to decorate  the flat and help stock Mimi’s fridge.

Until we learn this is all some elaborate prank contrived in the week of one premiere to publicise the next, we can congratulate Galifianakis for being a Very Nice Man and a new member of the ranks of famous  do-gooders quietly messing with the me-me celebrity mould. Russell Brand has regularly been photographed in Los Angeles stopping to talk to homeless people. Last year, he emerged from a yoga class to find a shirtless man lying in the street. When the man asked for a burger, Brand invited him to his house for a meal and the use of his bathroom.

Professional nice man Bill Cosby was performing at a comedy club in New York years ago when a woman from Harlem delivered a letter to the stage door. In it, she told him she could not afford to send her son to a prestigious music summer school in Colorado, where he was talented enough to have been offered a place. Cosby sent her a cheque. The boy, Noah Stewart, is now among the world’s best opera singers.

Galifianakis, the grandson of a Greek immigrants, is himself from fairly humble origins but his uncle Nick, a successful lawyer, was briefly a Democrat congressman in the early 1970s. When Republican rivals began drawing attention to his foreign surname during an election campaign, Galifianakis offered voters help with the charming slogan: “It begins with a gal and ends with a kiss.”

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