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The Daily Need

‘Mad’ for trains

Celebrities take up causes so we know what’s what.

At the annual “I care, I’m a celebrity”* event in Burbank, California, big names from around the globe show up to stake a claim to causes equivalent to their star power.

Example: When U2 sold out years ago,** lead man Bono (embracing a new family-friendly image as a result of a turn to mediocre, safe rock) was awarded the cause of Africa. With his newfound everyman/woman appeal, he was the perfect spokesman to get the word out about the war-torn continent. In the time since, that cause has been ceded to the lovable George Clooney, and Bono has been elevated to the cause of General Global Misery and Despair. Interestingly, with that cause comes an op-ed position with The New York Times.

On the flip side, Charlie Sheen’s recent fall from grace has dropped him from causes like Children’s Rights and Homelessness to Warlock Awareness and Tiger Blood.***

With this understanding, it’s no surprise that “Mad Men” actors Vincent Kartheiser and Rich Sommer released a three-minute ad in support of their cause, High-Speed Rail.

Even though the issue only got B-list support from Kartheiser and Sommer — not from the show’s A-list stars Jon Hamm and January Jones — using the “star power = cause worth” rubric, this still goes down as a win for high-speed rail. Here’s why: the ad is performed in character as if it were a scene from “Mad Men,” which might still lead viewers to associate it with Hamm and Jones. Really, the ad is just like one of those Hammless/Jonesless scenes we all suffer through anyway. Right?

Plus, any good news for high-speed rail should be welcomed by supporters because the cause has taken some real body blows as of late. Three Republican governors from Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have rejected well over $3 billion combined in federal dollars that would have gone to build high-speed rail lines. The refusal has all but derailed President Obama’s plan for a national high-speed rail system.

Still, with this Republican line drawn, and even the “Mad Men” video, the high-speed rail cause has never been more in the news than it is now.

— — — — —

*Note: The “I care, I’m a celebrity” event dates back to 1974, the year after Marlon Brando’s last minute sub of Sacheen Littlefeather who refused to accept the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of an absent Brando for his performance in “The Godfather.” Hollywood was generally cool with Brando using his status as a celebrity to publicly discuss issues facing Native Americans, but it just would have preferred a heads up.

“I care, I’m a celebrity” is a black-tie event. It’s also a fictitious event.

**Note: U2: Pre– and post-selling out.

***Note: Even though Charlie Sheen’s very public implosion stripped him of his worthy causes, it had no negative impact on his star power. In fact, using the “star power = cause worth” rubric, the “Major League 2” actor’s star power has only increased, putting Warlock and Tiger Blood appreciation at all-time highs.

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