The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon raised more than $1 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina during its two-day telethon that usually raises money for children with Muscular Dystrophy. Lewis, 79, decided to devote the two-day telethon to both children with muscular dystrophy and Katrina victims after seeing reports from the Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, traveling by boat and wading through foul-smelling water, Harry Connick Jr. surveyed the damage by Hurricane Katrina to his father's New Orleans home.
It wasn't as bad as Connick had feared. "It looks like pop's house made it through," he said. "Everything looks like it's pretty dry."
While some celebrities like Connick and Sean Penn ventured to the Gulf Coast, others, such as Celine Dion and Jay-Z, simply gave money.
Jerry Lewis' telethon's Katrina donations will go to the Salvation Army in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Tens of thousands of people are out of their homes, and many of those homes have been destroyed.
"I'm overjoyed we were able to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and at the same time continue our 40-year tradition of helping my kids," Lewis said.
The telethon's total to fight muscular dystrophy was $4.5 million less than last year, but lower figures were expected due to the outpouring of donations for the hurricane victims. It was only the third time in 40 years that the telethon failed to surpass the previous year's total.
Connick's ties to New Orleans run deep. His father, Harry Connick Sr., served as district attorney of New Orleans for 29 years before retiring in 2003. Last week, the 37-year-old jazz singer said all of his immediate family was safe.
Like many, Connick wanted to return to protect his family's house: "I don't want to get looted by the one-eyed rogue crackhead out there."
Connick performed Friday night on "A Concert for Hurricane Relief." He has agreed to be honorary chair of Habitat for Humanity's "Operation Home Delivery," a long-term rebuilding plan for the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast.
The trip through the flooded city left the singer — who had developed his music in jazz bands and at clubs in the French Quarter shaken.
"I forgot I was a musician," he said. "It's so much bigger than me and bigger than all of us."
Nevertheless, with the floodwaters slowly receding, Connick saw reason for optimism. After the sight of a bar open on Bourbon Street, "I said, `Man, if this isn't a sign of New Orleans coming back to its former state.'"
In related developments:
Dr. Phil suggests that Americans who want to help out with disaster relief should donate to the Red Cross.