Charity: How to make celebrities do what you want
Want Larry David to join Twitter? It's just a click away... if you're willing to make a donation. Luke Blackall reports on high-level bribery
Do you want to try to make Larry David join Twitter? Or maybe you want to see Celine Dion singing "I want your sex"? Charitybribes.org hopes to help you achieve just those dreams. The new website is trying to harness the power of people and guilt to encourage (or should that be force?) celebrities into performing acts in return for a charitable donation.
The site was created by Chris Baker and William Spencer, two advertising copywriters from the US, their first target comedian Larry David (to whom they have no connection), and their aim is to encourage him to join the social networking site. At the time of writing they had raised more than $7,450 in pledges from those who want to see the curmudgeonly comic tweeting.
Chat show host Conan O'Brien looks likely to be the next victim, with a number of users wanting to see him interview a guest while wearing an eye-patch.
"What's really fun; what gets people excited, is the element of uncertainty," Baker told the LA Times.
"We're putting celebrities in an awkward situation without them knowing about it. If we went to them ahead of time and set everything up, it would lose a lot of the fun." It would also lose a lot of their persuasive power. The advent of Twitter means that the public are able to interact with an increasing number of actors, models and musicians. At the same time, we the public are choosing an increasing number of the next generation of famous people through weekend-wasting reality shows, which seems to fuel a feeling of "ownership" of those stars. While emotional blackmail of celebrities used to be the preserve of tabloid newspapers, it is now available to anyone with web access. The internet pressure method has been used to great effect recently.
Last year YouTube videos of a couple of US Marines asking Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis to be their dates to their annual ball, went viral. The generous stars (promoting a film together at the time) announced that they would be happy to go. But had they exercised their basic right to turn down a date, they could have expected widespread criticism. The charitybribes.org technique is reminiscent of that employed by Bob Geldof before Live Aid, where the Irish rocker said some bands had confirmed to play before they had.
The effect was that if any of them denied that they were playing, they were the ones who would look bad rather than the concert organisers.
Similarly, any celebrity turning down the "bribes" offered by the site will only appear to be hurting the charity. The other side of the coin, is that for those taking part (like for those who perform, for example, on Comic Relief or Sport Relief) doing such activities only helps to raise the participants' profile.
"We're trying to make sure that the bribes are really positive," says William Spencer. "We don't want to get into anything that's mean-spirited or degrading to celebs."
Users of the site will be able to suggest future bribes and then vote. So if you want to see Russell Brand give up sex, the Beckhams choose their outfits from a charity shop or for Dame Vera Lynn to learn to ride a skateboard (our suggestions), then visit the site and let the emotional blackmail begin...
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