Thursday, April 18, 2024

U2 Plays Surprise Gig for Sean Penn’s A List Haiti Relief Dinner


What a night! While Oscar parties were humming all over town, Sean Penn threw his third annual Help Haiti Home dinner — for his very successful J/P Haiti Relief Organization- at the Montage Hotel for many members of the Hollywood elite. And the big surprise, kept well under wraps: U2 playing its first gig in two years on the small stage in the ballroom.

In the audience of about 300: Charlize Theron, who’s dating Penn, with her mom, sat at the main table. She had a bad cold but still looked stone cold sexy. Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, a bearded Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, Julia Roberts, Emma Thompson, Winona Ryder, director Kathryn Bigelow, director Nick Jarecki, Pamela Anderson, Anderson Cooper–who emceed the event, as well as Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, David Spade, Chelsea Handler, Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart, Piers Morgan, Kyle Maclachlan, Balthazar Getty, and Chris Hemsworth with his heavily pregnant wife.

The highlight of the night came early. Penn and his associate Paul Holder brought from Haiti a beautiful young woman with a stunning voice. Twenty year old Anaelle Jean-Pierre had never left Haiti or spoken much English. But Holder got her a singing coach in Haiti and she learned Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Anaelle, dressed in a red gown and a simple necklace, was brave as all get out. She walked onto the stage singing the song accompanied by guitar played initially off stage by The Edge. By the time she launched into the first verse she was joined by Edge and  Bono, a total surprise for the audience. It was almost too much for her. After receiving cheers and applause mid song, Annelle burst into tears and ran off stage.

“She didn’t know who U2 was when I asked her to do this,” Holder told me. But she did know “Hallelujah.” It was a song she’d been taught in Haiti by her school instructors. I will try and put up the video of all this on Sunday. Amazing!

After dinner, Bono and Edge returned according to sources– I had had to move on to four other studio parties– with Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen to play as U2.




Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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