DAVOS, Switzerland—Actress Sharon Stone hijacked the staid World Economic Forum on Friday, interrupting a panel on poverty with a spur-of-the-moment fund-raiser that within minutes brought in more than $1 million to fight malaria in Africa.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was moderating a session on anti-poverty efforts when Stone stood to address a panel that included Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the presidents of Brazil and Tanzania.
"Please identify yourself," said Frist, perhaps one of the few men on the planet who couldn't visually identify the sultry star of such hit movies as "Basic Instinct" and "Casino."
"Sharon Stone," she said dryly, proceeding to announce that she was giving $10,000 on the spot to help Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mbaka's anti-malaria efforts. As Frist tried to steer the conversation back to poverty, Stone talked over him, urging people to stand up and give to Mbaka.
"People are dying in his country today," she said.
The surprised senator yielded to the spike-haired movie star. Mbaka, a large, round man, grinned widely as roughly three dozen people stood to be counted and have their pledges written down.
After a few minutes, Frist announced that more than $1 million had been pledged. Actors Richard Gere and Angelina Jolie looked on as Stone said she'd route the money through a charity that Gates funded. The Microsoft founder has donated billions from his fortune to help find vaccines that would prevent malaria and AIDS.
More than 2 million people die each year from malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes. At least 150,000 children in Africa die annually from the disease that, thanks to Stone, is now assured of becoming a "cause celebre."
"Malaria is not problematic in most developed countries; that is unfortunate," Gates observed, noting that if it were, the health-care sector already would have developed a vaccine.
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Sharon Stone, Bill Frist
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