Bill Clinton‘s appearance at an A list celebrity charity event on Sunday night was a hit. But the 100o or so people who turned out for the 10th annual Starkey Hearing Foundation dinner couldn’t help but notice how unusually thin Clinton looked.
Clinton, always chided for being chubby, was so gaunt and underweight that his neck didn’t nearly fill out his starched white collar. His eyes and cheeks were sunken. And when he spoke, Clinton’s usually booming voice was a tad hoarse. As he spoke eloquently about volunteerism, Clinton’s mouth was clearly dry.
Nevertheless, Clinton’s appearance in St. Paul, Minnesota for amazing hands-on philanthropists Bill and Tani Austin helped Starkey raise $7.5 million for their round the world missions to fit every poor child and adult in the world with hearing aids. An impromptu auction for the highest bidder to win a day just tagging along with Clinton fetched $150,000.
Clinton not only spoke but arrived in time to hear many of the performers and stayed after his speech at the head table with Muhammad Ali, “Soul Man” Sam Moore, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. He got to watch Moore accept a humanitarian award from Starkey, given by Lou Ferrigno. Afterward Moore and a half dozen stars performed “Soul Man” with eight year child prodigy violinist Brianna Kahane. Clinton opened his remarks by saying how much Moore’s performance meant to him. “Unlike a lot of you, I remember when Soul Man was a hit.”
Other honorees for the evening included Steve Martin, who brought his bluegrass band. They put on a rousing show of banjo music and comedy, harking back to Martin’s days with the musicians who formed the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Also on the bill, for a show that lasted three or four hours, were Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Canadian Tenors, Jordin Sparks, ageless comedian Norm Crosby, and a rousing finale by the Doobie Brothers.
In the audience, an electic crowd including Magic Johnson, Nancy Lieberman, songwriter Paul Williams, astronaut Scott Carpenter, actor Robert Loggia, Verne Troyer (Mini Me), many famous Minnesota pro athletes including Larry Fitzgerald, and Dennis Gilbert, the famed sports agent upon whom “Jerry Maguire” was modeled.
The only musician in the room who shied away from participating was Ozzy Osbourne, who’s taken a miraculous trip in the Way Back Machine. He looks younger than springtime. It’s extraordinary. But he and Sharon couldn’t have been nicer, or spicier.
As for Clinton, one explanation offered by an insider for his appearance: “He’s been in Haiti a lot, and he’s been exposed to dysentery and any number of things. He works constantly.” It’s hoped that he’ll have a few of his favorite milk shakes and get some rest before daughter Chelsea’s wedding on Saturday.
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