Do the Rice Thing

UPDATED 12/09/1991 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/09/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

THE FIRST-WORLD DINERS, THE 15 PERCENT who drew red beads, drank chardonnay and ate a gourmet meal served on crisp linen tablecloths by professional waiters. The second-world group, the 25 percent holding amber beads, sat at long, bare tables and had pinto beans, rice, tortillas and water. The rest, their green beads representing the third world, stood in line for rice and water. They didn't have tables, seats or utensils. Naturally, all the correct-thinking guests wanted to eat third-world. Thus it was when Hollywood held its annual exercise to dramatize the harsh realities on a globe of few haves and many have-nots.

The Hollywood Hunger Banquet at a Sony Pictures soundstage, one of six fund-raisers around the country on Nov. 21, raised $70,000 for Oxfam America, a worldwide relief organization. It also provoked a flurry of media sneering about rich celebrities pretending to be poor for one night. "Some people will be cynical of the motives of people here, but that's such a cheap thing to do," said actor-musician Rubén Blades, who had drawn a green bead. "I remember in first grade in Panama, these CARE packages would come. We were struggling, and that milk and cheese really helped."

Emcee Mike (M*A*S*H) Farrell, arriving in a suitably modest shuttle van with wife Shelley Fabares, said, "We live in a society that only pays attention when celebrities show up."

Inside, Lou Diamond Phillips was trading down. When he drew a red bead from the basket, he tossed it back and fished out a green one. "I was raised on rice in the Philippines, so this is kind of a treat for me," he said later. Still, Fawn Hall, picking at her rice, was heard to muse about a former employer. "At least the Pentagon," she said, "had forks."

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