Charlize Theron has a reputation as a thinking actress who takes on serious roles. But her off-screen antics, like long girl-kisses while auctioning off fictitious meetings with Nelson Mandela, puts her name in the same class as Denis Sassou-Nguesso's.
From beggining to end, the whole thing was a bit tawdry. When voting slowed in a charity to raise money for the OneXOne children’s foundation, Charlize Theron upped the ante, throwing a kiss into a package that included a trip to SA and a meeting with Nelson Mandela.
The event took place at something called Bimbo’s 365 Club (we are not making this up) in San Francisco, at an event featuring lots of celebrity bigwigs.
US soccer star Mia Hamm was on hand to announce her “Home Field Advantage” initiative. Matt Damon apparently talked urgently about bringing new soccer fields and clean water to South Africa. Jeremy Piven even helped auction off walk-on roles on Entourage for a couple hundred grand. (Entourage, by the way, is a comedy drama about a favourite Hollywood narrative; people succeeding in Hollywood).
Theron was racing against Piven, who had raised US$280 000 (R2,1-million), and her tally at that point was only US$37 000. Desperate measures were obviously necessary, so she threw in a smooch, saying, “Fuck knows, you can’t do better than that.”
The tactic worked like a charm, and a guy in the crowd immediately pushed the bid up to $103 000. But actually a woman won the bidding at US$140 000, and now YouTube is buzzing with Theron’s twenty-second, open-mouthed girl-kiss, an already slightly faded Hollywood-style attention-grabber.
She joked afterwards: “Good thing my boyfriend is not here.” Very droll.
But as it turns out, Theron didn’t have the authority to offer a meeting with Mandela in the first place.
“A very strict process needs to be followed to get a meeting with Mandela,” Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive, Achmat Dangor, told Beeld.
“Not even the charity foundations Mandela himself established are allowed to auction off time with him,” said Dangor.
Fighting off attempts to exploit Mandela’s name for either political or commercial reasons is almost a full-time job for the foundation. Only last week, the foundation was forced to distance Mandela from a foreword to a book by Denis Sassou-Nguesso, the controversial president of the Republic of Congo. Sassou-Nguesso was president from 1979 to 1992 as part of a one-party state system. He lost power in 1991 when multiparty politics was introduced, but forced his way back after a civil war in 1997 and has been the leader ever since.
The foundation described the inclusion as “brazen”, saying he had “neither read the book nor written a foreword for it.” Officials from the Republic of Congo said text was taken from a speech Mandela had given in 1996, but the foundation replied it could find no record of such an address.
So in effect, Theron now finds herself in pretty uncomfortable company. She has not yet responded to the foundation’s claims, but it will be very interesting to watch both sides trying to get out of the mess.
By Tim Cohen
WATCH: A long, long kiss
Main photo: Oscar winning South African actress Charlize Theron meets with former South African President Nelson Mandela (L) at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton Johannesburg March 11,2004. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya