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Showbiz Tonight

Celebs Pitch in to Aid Hurricane Survivors; Seasoned Journalist Compares Hurricane to Third> World Conditions; Actor Helps Rescue Stranded Pets; Denis Leary Talks about Firefighters` Role in Relief Efforts

Aired September 07, 2005 - 19:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: I`m A.J. Hammer.
KARYN BRYANT, CO-HOST: And I`m Karyn Bryant. TV`s only live entertainment news show starts right now.


BRYANT (voice-over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Hollywood helps. Tonight, daytime`s biggest -- Oprah, Ellen -- rushing to help the victims of Katrina. Chris Rock`s emotional reaction. What Matthew McConaughey did. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with who`s there and what they`re doing to make a dramatic difference.

HAMMER (voice-over): Also, shocking video, startling words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m lost. That`s all I had.

HAMMER: Heartbreaking scenes we`ll never forget. But seeing them over and over again, are we already becoming desensitized to the nightmare Katrina left behind?

BRYANT: And, pets in peril. Tonight, heartbreaking images of what could be the most helpless victims. Precious pets that can`t speak for themselves. Tonight, stories of survival, reunions, and those abandoned.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`S live coverage of the Katrina disaster starts now.


HAMMER: Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer.

BRYANT: And I`m Karyn Bryant.

Tonight, some of the biggest stars in Hollywood aren`t on movie sets. Nor are they at splashy premieres.

HAMMER: No, they are on what looks like a set from the biggest disaster movie ever. But sadly, it`s all painfully real, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Today, everyone from Oprah to Chris Rock tried to do their part to relieve the misery.

BRYANT: Our coverage begins with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson live in Hollywood.

Hi, Brooke.


Well, the airwaves today were filled with celebrities doing good in the wake of this national tragedy. And it was all led by the queen of daytime talk.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I feel deeply that we owe it to every single family who has suffered to not forget and to not let them stand alone.

ANDERSON: Celebrities from Oprah to Macy Gray to the stars of ABC`s soaps are making sure that the victims of Hurricane Katrina are not standing alone. Stars are lending a hand to help and sometimes hug. Their missions of mercy for victims of this national tragedy.

WINFREY: We`re in Waveland, Mississippi, and it is so very sad. I was born in this state.

ANDERSON: For a second straight day, today`s "Oprah Winfrey Show" broadcast from the devastated Gulf Coast, where Winfrey, her Angel Network and an army of Oprah celebrity friends have been delivering supplies and hope to survivors.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: Hi, my name is Julia. I just arrived here in Birmingham, Alabama.

ANDERSON: Movie star Julia Roberts visited a Red Cross shelter where about 300 evacuees from Louisiana are being housed. Roberts brought with her two truckloads of supplies and a sympathetic ears for some of the victims.

ROBERTS: You`re not going to remember any of this, are you?

ANDERSON: Indeed it was the stories on of the youngest survivors that touched Julia Roberts the deepest.

ROBERTS: These are the sweetest children. It seems remarkable to have gone through all of this. When they`ve seen the worst side of life, the worst side of people in crisis. And they`re still so filled with hope and kindness and looking ahead. We should all learn from this kind of humanity.

ANDERSON: Matthew McConaughey brought another heart breaking story. The actor helicoptered to an abandoned hospital in New Orleans to rescue a doctor who was there taking care of more than 50 abandoned pets left behind during the evacuation. We`ll have more on that a little later on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Oprah, I`m here to help.

ANDERSON: Oprah`s celebrity relief crew included Chris Rock, who helped deliver food to evacuees living in Houston.

ROCK: I dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. And you know what? If I couldn`t tell jokes, this is exactly what I`d be doing for a living.

ANDERSON: But even the man once dubbed the funniest man in America was moved to tears by the stories of the now homeless families who barely escaped Katrina with their lives.

ROCK: All I can think about right now is my daughters. And I see this little girl right here -- you know, she`s confident. She`s got the love of her family, you now. Her daddy. And I just think about my own daughters.

All you got is a family. You think you got a house and that you got all this other stuff, but all you got is family. It`s all you`ve got. And I think this experience will affect me for the rest of my life.

ANDERSON: John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Lisa Marie Presley also helped Oprah`s efforts to bring food and supplies to the Hurricane Katrina victims.

And it wasn`t just Oprah`s crew lending a hand today.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, ABC`S "THE VIEW": We started thinking, "You know what?" Because our minds never stop here at "The View." We thought, "Well, what can we do?"

ANDERSON: Those minds at "The View" came up with Operation Soap Hope. Today and for the rest of the week, stars from ABC soap operas will answer phones during "The View`s" live broadcast on the eastern and central time zones to take donations from viewers for the Katrina relief efforts.

"All My Children" star Susan Lucci was among the soap stars manning the phones today. But the response was so incredible, no one had a lot of time to schmooze.

VIEIRA: And we`re going to go to Aidan Turner from "All My Children." He`s on the phone.

STAR JONES, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Isn`t that good?

ANDERSON: Another celebrity doing her part, Macy Gray. She helped pass out supplies to evacuees at Houston`s Astrodome. And as she joins a long list of stars trying to bring at least some relief to the devastated region, Gray says the work she and her fellow celebrities are doing is having an effect.

MACY GRAY, SINGER: I really urge that all the celebrities to come down and volunteer, because their spirits are soulless. They really love it. I think -- I think they see that people really care. You know, like in person. I think that means a lot. And it`s just great, because I look in their eyes and to really be able to help.


ANDERSON: On her top daytime talk show today, New Orleans native Ellen DeGeneres shared a personal story from the Katrina disaster. One of her guests was a long-time friend who barely escaped the storm. Karyn, fortunately, that friend did escape.

BRYANT: All right. Thank you very much. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson, reporting live from Hollywood.

And that leads to our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day. Hollywood helps: has it inspired you to do the same? You can vote at You can also send e-mail to us at We`ll read some of your thoughts later in our show.

HAMMER: Lisa Ling just returned from devastation in Louisiana as a member of Oprah`s Angel Network, reporting on the recovery efforts. As a journalist, she has covered disasters in the poorest and most violent countries in the world. Yet she says nothing could have prepared her for what she witnessed first hand on the Gulf Coast.

Lisa, who is also the host of "National Geographic`s Explorer," joins us live from Miami tonight. Lisa, I hope you`ve had an opportunity to sort of rest your head a little bit since your day yesterday.

LISA LING, HOST, "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC`S EXPLORER": I certainly have been able to rest myself. But you know, the images that I encountered and the people with whom I shared are -- have left, really, an indelible imprint in my mind.

HAMMER: Want to talk about some of those images in just a moment. Of course, one thing that has come up over the last week, a great deal of controversy in the aftermath of Katrina about whether race, in fact, has played a factor in the slow response by the government. You did chime in on that subject yesterday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," essentially how can we but feel but -- that if it were a white affluent community that was affected, the response may have been different. Powerful words, a powerful platform. What made you say it?

LING: No one made me say it. I felt so privileged and honored to have been sent out by the "Oprah" show to cover this disaster. And you know, I witnessed it first hand. But we`ve all witnessed on television the majority of people who have been affected have been black, and they have been poor.

And what I feel -- you know, if this had happened -- or if the people affected had been white, affluent people, I just -- I can`t seem but wonder, would something have been done faster? Would the federal government have intervened a couple of days earlier?

I just -- for some reason, I left New Orleans thinking that there could have been something done more for these people. But since they -- they may not be considered the highest in the highest tax bracket. Maybe that may have been one of the reasons.

HAMMER: Yes, it`s on a lot of our minds, certainly. You`ve been so many places all over the world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, El Salvador recently, the poorest of third world countries. I`m wondering exactly how you felt what you saw yesterday in the Gulf Coast compares to what you have seen in those poor places.

LING: Well, I had just gotten back from El Salvador when the producers at the "Oprah" show asked me to cover the hurricane. And when I was in El Salvador, I had seen dead bodies as a result of the gang conflict there. But they were cleaned up immediately.

And going to New Orleans and seeing dead bodies strewn amongst the refuge and the evacuees, that had been left there for days, I mean, that to me was so disconcerting because this is America. This is the most powerful country on earth. Yet, strewn among the refuge are dead bodies that had been left. And it just was absolutely confounding that this -- what I was seeing was akin to what I`ve seen in so many places in the third world.

HAMMER: And those have to be some of the worst images that you saw in their time there. What were some of the things that you saw that actually gave you hope, that maybe even put a little smile on your face?

LING: So many things actually gave me hope. We were -- Nate Berkus, who is a regular contributor to the "Oprah" show, who had gone through the tsunami, he and I and my fiance, actually, found a couple of people who were so resilient. They were not going to get on the bus without their pets. And you know, it was actually an amazing scene and such a -- gave so much hope in the human spirit.

And these people were absolutely devastated, because some of these dogs had saved other people`s lives. Yet, when it came down to it, they weren`t going to be allowed to take them on the buses.

And we had arranged for some of those dogs to go to a certain place in Baton Rouge so that their owners -- in this case you`re seeing Patrick -- were able to get on the buses. And we were able to reunite the dogs and their owners shortly thereafter.

HAMMER: A hopeful story, indeed. Lisa, we appreciate you joining us tonight and sharing some of your experiences with us.

LING: Thank you.

HAMMER: Lisa Ling, host of "National Geographic`s Explorer," live from Miami -- Karyn.

BRYANT: Well, they are some of the most helpless victims of Katrina, unable to speak for themselves. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes you along for emotional pets rescue like what Lisa just talked about. We`re going to show you how you can help, as well. That`s next.

HAMMER: Also, the images of Katrina`s aftermath have brought tears to our eyes for sure. But are we going number? Are we being desensitized to these graphic pictures? We`re going to look into that, coming up in a bit.

BRYANT: Also, Denis Leary live. He does play a fictional firefighter on "Rescue Me," but he is very close to the real-life firefighters helping out in the Katrina relief. He is going to join us live next.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer.

Tonight, the pictures that just tug at your heart. Pets in need. The perils and the rescues of the animals that are stranded in Katrina`s wake. Like so many of the tough stories that we`ve been watching, these are images and stories that are difficult and touching.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Sibila Vargas live in Hollywood now with the story - - Sibila.


The Humane Society has rescued over 700 animals left behind in the area, impacted by Katrina, but they estimate that tens of thousands of pets have already dead. It`s truly an astounding number.

Now, there are many groups, organizations and private citizens trying to do everything they can to help the pets in need.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Dog`s going. That`s good.

VARGAS (voice-over): They`re some of the most helpless victims of Hurricane Katrina. The lucky ones rescued but tens of thousands of pets stranded, desperate, hungry and thirsty, clinging to safety.

The faces of these animals have captivated the nation and the media. Pet organizations like, the Humane Society and an organization called Noah`s Wish have been doing all they can.

TERRI CRISP, NOAH`S WISH: Noah`s Wish, all we do is disaster relief work for the animals. Nothing else, period.

These animals are real scared right now. For the majority of them, though, they`re extremely hungry and they`re very grateful to see somebody.

VARGAS: Grateful for help.

CRISP: The house she came out of had a good six to seven feet of water in it.

Every time I walk through the shelter, I know that they`re alive because of what we`re doing. That`s why there needs to be someone like us, a Red Cross, for a lack of a better explanation, for animals.

VARGAS: The need in this situation is overwhelming.

DAMIEN ANTI, NOAH`S WISH: We`re out there rescuing animals out of collapsed houses, back yards. We`ve gone into houses and gotten birds out, hamster out, iguanas out, dogs and cats. Any kind of animal you can imagine.

VARGAS: Members of the media also feel compelled to help. CNN`s Jeff Koinange accompanied a family back to their flooded home in New Orleans to find three of their cats alive and well, the fourth missing. They rescued the cats, putting two in a carrier and a third in a bag. Volunteers put the cats on board a boat, and the National Guard carried them to safety.


VARGAS: Koinange described the cats as their children.

Another reporter trying to help, CNN`s Anderson Cooper, waded through the toxic, polluted water to try and give a stranded dog a drink. He never reached the dog.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": I`ve seen dogs in trees. I`ve seen dogs on debris, swimming. You know, you want to do something. You want to try to help. You know, there are so many people in need. There are animals in need.

VARGAS: Actor Matthew McConaughey was on the scene. Viewers of today`s "Oprah" saw his efforts in New Orleans, helping rescue more than 50 stranded pets. The pets were holed up in a local hospital, guarded by Doctor James Riapel (ph), who has gone without food and water, in an effort to keep his promise to dozens of pet owners.



MCCONAUGHEY: You`ve been here for over a week. You stayed here with the dogs, said you weren`t going to leave until you got the dogs out to safety.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard you all were taking them all. I`m so deeply grateful. I feel tired. I wasn`t sure I could go much longer. Mighty glad to get out.

VARGAS: McConaughey helped bring them all to safety.

MCCONAUGHEY: Come on, you.

VARGAS: They were loaded on boats, choppered to safety, reunited with their families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been waiting for him.

MCCONAUGHEY: We ended up getting 50 dogs, 50 or so dogs, about 18 cats.

VARGAS: A heartwarming story for a city full of heartache.


VARGAS: Now the Humane Society is asking all media in the field in New Orleans area to report any stranded animals they see and, if possible, take the lost animal to safety. The Humane Society will meet reporters with pets and bring the pets to local shelters.

And again, if you want to help those pets in need, check out the Humane Society site at Log onto or log onto

A.J., back to you.

HAMMER: Sibila, we will take all the heartwarming stories we can get. Thanks so much. Sibila Vargas, live in Hollywood.

BRYANT: Well, we go from one type of rescue to another.

In the aftermath of Katrina, parallels are being drawn to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And as you know, firefighters from around the country are banding together to help those in need.

On the FX show, "Rescue Me," Denis Leary stars as a New York City firefighter coping with life on the job. But he has more than just a fictional understanding of what they`re going through right now.

Denis Leary joining us live here in New York.

You know a lot of about firemen. I know that -- I know a lot of them are your good friends. What are they saying right now about what`s going on in Katrina? Because we know 300 of them have gone down to New Orleans to help.

DENIS LEARY, COMEDIAN/ACTOR: Yes. Actually, a couple guys I know are in that crew. And when you saw those pictures today on CNN, live, a lot of these fires, it`s strange. You`re seeing NYFD suits. You know that it`s guys from here that are in there, right at the top of the action.

So I think there`s many things going through their mind. You know, one, being a strange city. Two, I mean, these conditions are unbelievable. I mean, the first firemen that we saw, when things went bad, were trying to pump the water from the ground around them.

BRYANT: Right.

LEARY: ... onto the fire. And everything was clogging up. And put filters on the hoses.

BRYANT: These are shots of them right here that we`re showing now. Yes, the guys had to shovel out the hose to get the water. Right?

LEARY: Pretty extraordinary circumstances. But that`s one of things that I was talking about when I talk about firemen and especially the FDNY. These guys are a different breed. Their first response is to go down there and jump into the middle of the action like this.

So it`s just why these guys are, I think, performing the most honorable job on the planet and should be paid more than they get paid, everywhere, whether it`s in New Orleans or New York or -- these are the guys, you know?

BRYANT: And I -- the show "Rescue Me," I`ve been a fan since the first episode. I think it`s a terrific show.

LEARY: You`ve got good taste.

BRYANT: Well, because it`s funny and it`s honest and it`s raw. And it`s real.

One of things, sort of a main through line, is how your character, years later, processes everything on 9/11. How the guys in the house actually handled this, how it plays out. What do you -- what do you think their emotional state of the guys right now who are down dealing with Katrina, how do you think this is this going to play out in their heads?

LEARY: Yes, this is a difficult circumstance. It`s like 9/11; the further these guys get away from something like this, the more they start to realize how much of a grip it does have on them.

I mean, they were talking about the firefighters from New Orleans, all those guys, first of all, lost their firehouses. And some of the guys, their own actual homes.

So it`s a completely different circumstance in that regard. Because you know, in 9/11, they had the firehouse to go back to, which is like a regrouping spot and a place where they can sit down and talk through what they`re feeling. These guys don`t even have a firehouse anymore.

So it`s really very tough circumstances. I can only imagine what the firefighters who have been on duty this past week have been going through down there.

BRYANT: Well, yes, and we`ve heard of cops taking their own lives. I mean, it`s just a tremendous scene down there.


BRYANT: I`m sure a lot of people are wondering how it is that you are so passionate about firemen. What is it in your own experience, your own life that brought you to this great understanding?

LEARY: Well, my cousin, Jerry Luce (ph), was a fireman up in my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. And he was killed in a big warehouse fire in December `99. Killed six men, including another guy I grew up with named Tommy Spencer.

So that actually kind of solidified my feeling about the guys. And it was after that that we formed the Leary Firefighters Foundation to come to a point of getting the message out that these guys need more money. They need equipment. They need training facilities. So that`s what we try to do, is to put equipment into the hands of firefighters in New York, in Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. So I think it`s...

BRYANT: Worcester.

LEARY: Yes, Worcester.

BRYANT: You know, you`re from Worcester.

LEARY: That`s really -- all we want to do is give them tools that they should be able to buy but that they don`t have the money to buy.

So the problem with firemen is they never go on strike, so unlike the garbage men or teachers, they, when they want a pay raise, they don`t have a way to express their anger about it. They can talk about it, but they will never go on strike. So therefore, they`re the low guys on the totem pole when it comes to public funding.

So we`re just trying to get the message out that, if you want to help them, give your money to the Leary Firefighters Foundation. We turn it right back over to the fire department.

BRYANT: And of course, we are coming up to the fourth anniversary of 9/11. What are the guys saying this week to you? How are they feeling about what happened?

LEARY: I was with Terry Klimst (ph), our financial adviser, in a series of meetings yesterday. And we didn`t really talk about it. It`s one of those things that kind of sneaks up on you. We`re in the midst of finishing the show, anyways.

But yes, nobody`s really talking about that. I think that a lot of their energy about that is going into this New Orleans thing. I think they`re glad, in a way, to have something to keep them occupied. You know, because it`s hard to believe it`s been four years. My God, you know?

BRYANT: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

All right. Well, Denis, thank you for joining us. And the finale of "Rescue Me" is next Tuesday on FX. It`s a terrific show. Can I say that one more time?


BRYANT: It`s a fantastic show.

LEARY: Great job, great job, great job. It`s not coming from me; it`s from her.

BRYANT: You can catch the "rescue me" finale next Tuesday on FX. You can also visit the Leary Firefighters at

LEARY: Thank you.

HAMMER: Well, day after day, we`ve seen those nightmarish images from Hurricane Katrina. But after more than a week of pictures that have brought tears to our eyes, the question is are we growing desensitized? We`re going to investigate that, coming up next.

BRYANT: Plus, switching gears a little bit, country star Brad Paisley had a big day today in New York City. We`re going to find out why when he joins us live. That`s also coming up.

HAMMER: And suddenly, the "Desperate Housewives" have something in common with Beyonce and Madonna. That`s ahead in our "SHOWBIZ Showcase."


HAMMER: Last night, our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day was "Covering Katrina" should reporters remain objective?" Well, we ran out of time to bring you the results, so we`re doing it right now.

Seventy-eight percent of you said yes, reporters should stay objective, keep their opinions out; 22 percent of you say no, they shouldn`t.

And we`ve gotten a bunch of e-mails on this subject, as well.

BRYANT: Marilyn has written in, saying, "It is so telling to see a reporter wiping tears from their eyes. Please do not ask them to cease showing their humanity."

But Don from Tennessee disagrees. He said, "Give me the facts and I will make up my own mind."

HAMMER: Well, in addition to seeing the reporters, we`re seeing a lot of horrific pictures that make us want to close our eyes and turn away from the screen. But as the days go on, will the Hurricane Katrina images make us numb? We`ll deal with that next.

BRYANT: And country star Brad Paisley is a southern guy, but he had a big day today here in New York City. He`s going to join us live and tell us all about it. That`s on the way.

HAMMER: Plus, I think everybody`s in need of little diversion. Are you desperate for a new season of "Desperate Housewives"? Well, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has a little sneak peak for you in our "SHOWBIZ Showcase," coming up in just a bit.


THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT continues in one minute. Hi, everyone. I`m Thomas Roberts with your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."

There are visible signs of progress in the Gulf Coast tonight. Twenty-three of the 148 pumps in New Orleans are now working and water levels have dropped five feet in some areas. That`s key, because health officials now say people should avoid any contact with the filthy floodwaters. At least 15,000 people remain in the city. Authorities say they won`t start forcible evacuations until everyone in need is rescued.

The response from Americans has been overwhelming. Private homeowners, small towns, non-profit groups, churches, even hotels and schools are stepping up to help. Roughly 30 states have volunteered to accept evacuees.

Meanwhile, a new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup shows many Americans think New Orleans may never recover. Fifty-six percent of those polled say the city is beyond repair. Some 63 percent would like it rebuilt. A quarter of respondents say local and state officials are responsible for the slow response to the hurricane, and 31 percent blame the federal government or the President Bush, while 38 percent blame no one.

That is the news for now. Thanks for joining us. I`m Thomas Roberts.

BRYANT: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It`s 31 minutes past the hour. I`m Karyn Bryant.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer. You`re watching TV`s only live entertainment news show.

Still to come in this half-hour, we`re seeing the wall-to-wall coverage. We`re seeing the images over and over coming out of the Gulf Coast area. Devastating images.

The question is, seeing the images so nonstop, are we being desensitized? Are we starting to lose the impact of what is actually going on there? A subject we`re going to deal with in just a few minutes.

BRYANT: And also, something we need to do every now and then, take a worldview. Take a bigger perspective of what`s going on. We`re going to actually talk to Richard Quest, CNN man based in London, about the international coverage of the hurricane and how America is being perceived and written about.

HAMMER: It`s different.

BRYANT: Very different. That`s all coming up, and more, as well. And Brad Paisley`s on the way.

But first, let`s get tonight`s "Hot Headlines." Brooke Anderson joining us once again live from Hollywood.

Hi, Brooke.


Supermodel Naomi Campbell`s first fashion shoot was in New Orleans 15 years ago. And now she`s giving back. New York`s Fashion Week starts Friday. And tonight, Campbell is offering to appear at any show if the designer donates her salary to the Red Cross. So far, she`s booked for at least three shows.

"American Idol" is helping relief efforts, as well. Today we learned that the "American Idol" live tour has been extended by one night to aid hurricane victims. The season four idols will sing this Sunday at Syracuse, New York, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Tomorrow, "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood will stop by SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

The schedule is shaping up for this Friday`s televised concert to benefit hurricane victims. Today, we learned that Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, and Paul Simon will perform at "Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast." The one-hour live show will air on six broadcast networks and several cable stations.

And those are the "Hot Headlines." Karyn, back to you.

BRYANT: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson live from Hollywood. Thank you very much.

As we continue our coverage of how Hollywood has helped in the relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina, we have been asking you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Hollywood help: Has it inspired you to do the same?

Keep voting at and write us at Your e-mails are coming up at 54 past the hour.

HAMMER: As relief efforts for Katrina survivors continues, so do the heartbreaking stories and all of the images of unimaginable devastation. But after a week of coverage showing the graphic, the gruesome, the unthinkable, is America becoming desensitized by the bombardment of the images of the disaster?

It`s a topic CNN`s Anderson Cooper is grappling with himself.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For some, I suppose the story`s already gotten routine, same pictures, same rescues day after day. If you ask me, that only adds to the horror of it all.

I realized today that, all week, I`ve been referring to the dead I`ve seen as bodies and corpses. I should be ashamed of myself. These are human beings, Americans, our neighbors. They have families. They have friends. And now they have nothing.


HAMMER: Anderson certainly raises a touchy but all-too real issue. Joining us live now tonight from Pittsburgh, Jeff Alan. He`s the author of "Responsible Journalism." Jeff, also the news director of WPGH television.

And joining us live from Baton Rouge, CNN`s Rick Sanchez. Rick, the images are nonstop. Are we in danger of being desensitized with all of this?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It`s exhausting for those of us who are covering this story. It`s exhausting for the people who are having to live through it. And sometimes, it`s a big taxing and exhausting, even for the people watching it on their television screens.

The onus on us, as reporters, as correspondents, is to try and further the story, that is to say, not just to bring you the same pictures, the same information over and over again, but for those people who are truly interested in finding out how this is going on, and how the government is dealing with it, to bring you the very latest information, and to bring you information today and perhaps pictures today that are different from what you saw yesterday.

It`s also incumbent upon the American people to be informed. One of the great things about this country is that it`s a privilege that we have, that we have to actually know what`s going on in our country and in our government. Sometimes, it`s a bit taxing, but I think it`s a responsibility that we bear as citizens.

And in a country where you have a free press, you better damn well take advantage of it, because you could be living in a place where something like this could be put in different terms so that you literally would never even understand what is going on. I know. I come from a country like that. I was born in Cuba, and there the government controls everything that the media puts out.

HAMMER: Jeff, I want to get to you. We saw what the wall-to-wall coverage of September 11th, and with the war in Iraq, and now down in the Gulf Coast, the nonstop images. Do they lose their impact after awhile? Is it your feeling that we can become desensitized?

JEFF ALAN, AUTHOR, "ANCHORING AMERICA": Well, you know something, A.J., it`s -- Rick is, by the way, very, very right. It`s incumbent upon the reporters to keep these stories fresh and to keep them alive.

It`s hard to get desensitized when you see people in such agony, and you see pictures of cities underwater, and you see all those people that are sitting on the roof right now. You know, it`s really hard on the viewer, too, to watch these.

I mean, every time you see a plane go into a building, you know, the World Trade Center, you cringe. I mean, it`s horrifying images. But unfortunately, it`s our job to bring them to people.

So, no, people are not going to get desensitized. They can easily get desensitized if you say, "New Orleans is spared. All is well. The hurricane didn`t create the horror that what we thought it would," and that happened the first day. And maybe a lot of people didn`t leave their homes because of it.

But once you saw the devastation, you saw how Americans reached out and helped. And Rick and all of the reporters down there are just doing an incredible job of trying to bring these incredible pictures to the people, and new ones every day.

HAMMER: And they`ve done it with such an emotional level that we rarely get to see on television, something that we`ve been discussing over the past couple of nights.

And, Rick, with that emotional component, do you feel that that is essential to put into the story, to keep people from becoming desensitized?

SANCHEZ: It`s always the big question about what a journalist say and do and how much of what he shares should come from here, as opposed to here. Or should it be a blend?

And, once in a while, you come across a story where it`s almost impossible to the story without sharing it through your own nerve, your own sinew, as Rudyard Kipling would say. This is one of those stories.

This is a story where, whether no matter what you are, a father, a husband, a friend, a pet lover, you`re affected by it. And those experiences that you`ve had in your life somehow sneak into your story.

The trick is to not let it get in the way of the facts of the story, but still, to be able to temper the story with your own emotions and your own feelings. And in the end, in a story like this, I don`t think you`re doing a disservice to the viewer by doing that, because I think you`re probably feeling what they`re feeling, as well.

HAMMER: And, Jeff, do you agree? Would you say that bringing emotion into the story, letting the reporter speak from the heart, is also helping avoid the desensitization?

ALAN: Yes, it is, A.J. And it`s simply because the feelings of the story convey right through that TV screen. They pop out right at the viewer. I don`t think Rick thought he`d see anything worse than Hurricane Andrew when he covered that story. I remember he was in Miami at the time.

But here`s something even much more. And every time, you know, as a news director like I am, or a reporter like Rick is, that we think we have seen the worse, we`ve seen -- nothing could be any worse than this, something else happens.

And people watching this, they know. They`re sitting at home, and they know when they`re seeing devastating pictures. It hits them right here.

HAMMER: And, Jeff, the reality is, in the coming weeks, the images coming out of the Gulf Coast are only going to get a lot worse. You have to make decisions in running your television news department about what you show and where you cross the line, and where you straddle the line.

Are we going to run into a further problem here, with the graphic images that we`re going to see in the weeks to come, because, as I mentioned, they are going to get terrible?

ALAN: We actually have to be careful not to upset people too much. I mean, you can go overboard.

I remember, on the anniversary of 9/11, we were very careful not to show the planes going into the World Trade Center, or the World Trade Centers collapsing, if we didn`t have to show them. And I think the same will be here, too.

I mean, we don`t want to show overly devastating pictures, when we`re in to this two and three weeks later. We want to get people help.

Part of the job of the media is to help, and to help people get relocated, find their families, get the city rebuilt. These are things we can do as journalists to help in this time.

We sit in an editorial meeting in the mornings and afternoons. And we think about and talk about these very, very same things.

HAMMER: All right, Rick, Jeff, we appreciate you chiming in on it tonight and joining us. Jeff Alan, Rick Sanchez, thanks for being with us on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

BRYANT: The coverage here in America has been nonstop. But how is the hurricane aftermath being covered by the international press? We`ll get to that question, ahead in a live report.

HAMMER: Plus, we`re going to have an opportunity to switch gears for some other entertainment news. Tonight, country music superstar Brad Paisley is going to join us live to tell us how alcohol has been the key to his success this year, so to speak.

BRYANT: He`s found out our secret, A.J.

And it is a juicy new ad for one of the most anticipated upcoming Sunday nights. We`ll show you the new "Desperate Housewives" promo, coming up in the "Showbiz Showcase."


BRYANT: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Karyn Bryant.

Now, certainly, here in the United States, the media attention covering Katrina has been extensive. And the images we`ve seen are emotionally wrenching. But how is the story being reported around the world? And what impression of the United States is left?

Here to give us the worldview is CNN international anchor Richard Quest, joining us live in London.

Good to see you, Richard. Thanks for joining us.

I do want to ask, first and foremost, is the focus that we`re seeing overseas on the devastation or is it on the perceived failure by the government to act in a timely manner?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That`s a very good question. And it is a combination of both.

To put it into perspective, even this far away from the actual event, just driving in tonight, on the midnight radio news on the BBC, the first 12 to 14 minutes of a half-hour bulletin is still taken up with what`s happening with Hurricane Katrina.

The newspapers -- sometimes it`s moved off the front page, but there`s always pages and pages of coverage. For instance, this is the "Independent" newspaper in Britain. Here, of course, it`s got "The Toxic Time Bomb."

Then you have the "Daily Mirror." Now that, of course, is wanting to promote, to some extent, the British interest. And here it has "Our Hell in the Terror Dome."

So what the papers over here are trying to do is walk this, if you like, narrow line between covering the story, but, at the same time, I think they are being far more critical, far more brutal, far more acerbic and acidic, if you like, about the failings or the perceived failings of the administration.

BRYANT: Yes, well, that is a question I wanted to ask. And it is of the tone of it. And are they saying that, you know, the America government now should be humbled. You know, what sort of words are they using to describe how America is responding?

QUEST: Just about every adjective you can possibly imagine: Fiasco, chaos, disorganized, disaster, incompetence. Let me give you a couple of examples.

The "International Herald Tribune" says, "Count America`s image as one of the casualties," "Bush twangs while New Orleans sinks," "Credibility sank with New Orleans."

But I think, of all of things I read over the last week, the one that really struck me, Karyn, was in the weekend business paper. And it said here -- bear with me -- it said, "We have reached a pivotal moment in America history to which people might well look back and say this was the start of the decline of the American empire."

So that gives you an idea. I think, because of America is so involved, the people in the country are so much part of the firestorm at the moment, it is only when you go aboard you start to see the vitriolic criticism, the poignant and pungent noise that`s being made against the Bush administration.

BRYANT: And we have about 30 seconds left, Richard. Man on the street reaction. What are you getting from your viewers?

QUEST: Well, they can`t believe it. How can the wealthiest country in the world not only fail to anticipate, but fail to deal with the consequences, and leave so many people in such desperation? I mean, I don`t want to make it sound worse than it is.

But the reality is, over here in Europe, and Asia, Australia, they simply say, "How did this happen? And how did the government just simply not get a better handle on things?"

BRYANT: All right. Well, Richard, we thank you very much for giving us that report. CNN`s Richard Quest, live from London.

HAMMER: Well, fortunately, there are people taking action. Tonight, Willie Nelson is coming to the aid of those hit by Hurricane Katrina. The country music legend will headline a benefit concert on September 26th for hurricane relief. His Farm Aid charity has also pledged an immediate $30,000 for recovery and is continuing to raise and distribute funding.

Well, it was a big day for country music. Today, in New York City, the Country Music Association handed out nominations. Brad Paisley tied for the most nods. He got six of them, including entertainer of the year. Brad Paisley joining us live here in New York.

It`s nice to see you. I`m sure it comes as a very bittersweet surprise to get all of these nominations when everything that is going on in the world is going on. Have you had a time, with all the chaos in your own life, and the busy schedule you`ve been on, to sit at the television? Have you been glued to the images coming in?

BRAD PAISLEY, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: Yes, a little bit. My wife keeps me grounded that way. She sort of studies this stuff. You know, she`s got a really big heart. And she kind of was the first to sort of notice.

I don`t watch a lot of TV, so it took me a little while to understand. And it is, it`s horrific. I have a lot of ties to New Orleans. We`ve played there. I`ve been there the last two Mardi Gras. I did a special on CMT last year from there and spent like four days having a ball.

And the year before that, I was -- I guess the monarch of the Orpheus Krewe for Harry Connick, Jr. And, man, it just breaks my heart.

HAMMER: Such a rare, palpable energy that that town has always had and is always been known for.

PAISLEY: Yes, I know.

HAMMER: And the country music community has always gotten behind causes. The relief effort, I just mentioned, from Willie Nelson comes as no surprise. And you yourself have been involved with plenty of work, helping our military out, I know, as well.

PAISLEY: Yes, well, you know, country music is one of the first, I think, on the scene when it comes to musical charity. And it has to do with a lot with the fact that we really do cater to real people, you know, it`s sort of the music of everyday folks.

And I think this is a calling now. This situation in New Orleans is something that we really need to embrace.

HAMMER: Well, there`s nothing wrong with getting some good news. And some of it came to you today. Let`s talk about the six nominations. You already have CMA awards under your belt.

And awards mean different things to different people. Some think it`s very important. Some think, oh, as long as the fans love what I`m doing. What`s your take? How do you feel?

PAISLEY: Well, that`s true. In one sense, I always see awards as a chance to reach new fans, you know? And they can be important in that way. I mean, I`ve had people tell me they first saw me on the CMA Awards. Man, countless occasions they say that. And that`s the kind of thing, you just -- it`s priceless.

And so, yes, this is a really big deal. I`m really excited.

HAMMER: Well, one song that got you a nomination, a couple of nods as a matter of fact, "Alcohol," wildly popular. What a fun song on your album. I believe it`s the first time a song has ever been sung from the perspective of alcohol.

Now, I have to ask you: Is that coming from your own personal experience? Well, which personal experience? Is it your own involvement or is it what you see in other people? You know, when alcohol is saying, "I can make you put a lampshade on your head"?

PAISLEY: You know, it`s mostly other people. I`m definitely not guilty. No, no, it`s one of those things where I grew up singing country music. From age 12 or so, I was playing in some clubs and bars. I watched people go from Jekyll to Hyde every night, you know? And (OFF-MIKE) community leaders turn into, you know, babbling idiots.

HAMMER: Yes, they do.

PAISLEY: Yes, they do. And it was something, I think, that was begging to be said, so...

HAMMER: Real quickly, your favorite line from that song?

PAISLEY: Some of the best times you`ll never remember.

HAMMER: That`s exactly right. Well, I hope you remember your time here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

PAISLEY: I will.

HAMMER: Brad Paisley, good luck on your nominations for the CMA Awards.

PAISLEY: Thank you.

HAMMER: Appreciate you stopping by.

And Brad`s latest album, "Time Well Wasted," is in stores now -- Karyn?

BRYANT: Tonight in the "Showbiz Showcase," a fresh promo for the season premiere of "Desperate Housewives." The big-budget ad was directed by Matthew Rolston, who has directed music videos for everyone from Beyonce, to Madonna, to Jessica Simpson.

Let`s take a look.




BRYANT: Very nice promo. Well, the new season of "Desperate Housewives" starts Sunday, September 25th on ABC.

HAMMER: I suddenly got a hankering for some apple juice. I don`t know why.

Still some time for you to sound off on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." Hollywood help: Has it inspired you to do the same? You can vote at You can also write to us. The e-mail address is We`re going to read some of your e- mails...



Are you a gadget lover? Well, tonight is your night, because, today, Apple unveiled a cell phone that`s going to play digital songs that you download from iTunes. There it is right there. It`s going to be available this weekend at Cingular stores, about $250 bucks with the iTunes program installed.

Apple also introduced the new iPod Nano. It replaces the iPod Mini. It`s thinner than a number-two pencil. It starts shipping today.

BRYANT: OK, A.J. Thanks for that uplifting report.

Well, many online music services are responding to the Katrina tragedy. And in a recent segment, we may have left the impression that Napster, which started as one of a number of free services later deemed illegal by the recording industry, was still operating that way. And we want to make it clear that Napster is a legitimate pay service.

HAMMER: Well, throughout our show tonight, we`ve been asking you to vote online on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day," which is: Hollywood helps: Has it inspired you to do the same?

Here`s how the vote`s been going tonight: 18 percent of you say, yes, Hollywood has, in fact, inspired you to help; 82 percent of you say, no, it is not, so you`re just kind of doing it on your own.

Among the e-mails we`ve received on the subject, one from Lisa in California who writes, "I already wanted to help the hurricane victims, but watching actors give a piece of their hearts is heartwarming."

We also heard from Michelle in Utah. She writes, "Hollywood could do a lot more. I don`t think America responds to the elite and wealthy asking the rest of us for money."

You can keep voting at I think the success of all the telethons actually shows that celebs getting their faces out there and saying this is a good idea is a good idea.

BRYANT: Well, that is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Karyn Bryant.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer. Stay tuned for the latest from CNN Headline News.