Celebrities and a ‘beautiful whale’

I was really out of my element this week when writing a story about celebrities who have apparently joined the campaign to bring a killer whale named Lolita back to her home waters of Puget Sound.

Usually, if I want to know something, I’ll just call up a scientist, agency official or politician and ask for a straight answer. But getting a quick interview with a top celebrity is practically impossible. Furthermore, I discovered that getting a quick, definitive response from their managers, agents and publicists can be nearly as difficult. Maybe if I would have been a reporter for the New York Times…

Anyway, actor Raul Julia-Levy has generated a growing list of more than two dozen celebrities that he knows and has contacted personally. He put me on the phone with a couple of them, actor Esai Morales and rapper Truth Hurts. Julia-Levy is adamant that accomplished entertainers don’t need the permission of their agents or managers to lend their names to an effort.

I talked to one film producer who told me that celebrities are generally careful with allowing their names to be used. But Julia-Levy said it didn’t require a hard sell to get their assistance, and he pointed out that he’ll be the one discredited if he has put anyone too far out on a limb.

Lolita is the only remaining survivor among an estimated 45 orcas captured in Puget Sound and placed into aquariums around the world. The rest died by 1987.

Howard Garrett of Orca Network says Julia-Levy has breathed new life into the campaign to bring Lolita back home. If you’re interested, there is a lot of information about the project, including a draft of a plan to return and release the whale and a detailed letter to supporters (PDF 388k).

I questioned Julia-Levy about how he contacted many of the celebrities and how they reacted to his pitch for support. I thought you might be interested in a little more detail than I provided in my story:

Here’s what Raul Julia-Levy told me about his conversations with the various celebrities:

Jean Claude Van Damme has a side that loves animals, according to Julia-Levy. He always gets his dogs from shelters. “He said, ‘Just put my name on the list.’” His wife Gladys was “very thrilled” with the Lolita campaign, according to Julia-Levy. She said, “We want to contribute to this amazing cause.” Garrett said he has been in contact with her about a fund-raising effort.

Rapper Truth Hurts (real name Shari Watson) is a personal friend. On a three-way call, Julia-Levy reached her Thursday morning as she was just waking up. Watson said she would call him back in 10 minutes, but she apparently got tied up with something else.

Esai Morales had a group of friends over to his house. When Julia-Levy first approached him, he didn’t get much of a reaction.
“I said, ‘Esai, you are a major animal activist, and you’re not giving me the response that I want. Just listen to me.’ He said, ‘Alright, everybody, Raul has something here. Please be quiet.’”
Julia-Levy showed a video from YouTube of a transient killer whale teaching her offspring to hunt seals. “They played with it, then put it back on the ice,” Julia-Levy said of the video. Everyone at the get-together was affected emotionally by the video, which demonstrated the intelligence of killer whales. Morales said, “I want to know more about this whale.”

Julia-Levy caught up with Johnny Depp at a movie premier. He knew him through his father, Raul Julia.
“I said, ‘I am going to need the most famous pirate for a mission.’ He said, ‘What mission? Number 1 is over; what do you want?’ I said there is this beautiful whale, and then he told me stories about whales that I did not know.”

Harrison Ford was coming out of a banquet in Hollywood when Julia-Levy caught up with him and told him about the whale. “He said, ‘You can use my name, only as a supporter, not as a speaker or anything.’”

Julia-Levy said he has known Damon and Forrest Whitaker, who are brothers, for 15 years. Julia-Levy was at Damon’s house when he gave him approval to use their names.

Julia-Levy approached Jonathan Silverman at a restaurant. The two had last seen each other at a 10-hour charity event designed to feed the homeless. Silverman introduced his wife, Jennifer Finngan, and his father. “I said, ‘Jonathan, can I have one minute out of your life?’ I told them about Lolita. Ten minutes later, everyone said ‘Wow.’ Jonathan said, ‘Why don’t people know about this?’ He said, ‘Count me in. Nobody has the right to take the innocence of this beautiful creature away.’”
Julia-Levy said Silverman had him write down a quote for him to use in the campaign, including the words: “Enough is enough. A promise was made five years ago to release Lolita from captivity. Let’s now do the right thing. Let her go in peace with her family.”

Rapper 50 Cent has never been involved in animal-rights causes, but he grew up with dogs. Julia-Levy approached him at an event. “He said, ‘I love animals, but was never approached.’ He is a very intelligent man.”

Hayden Panettiere was involved last year with a group of activists who paddled out on surfboards into a cove in Japan in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt. Julia-Levy said he told her about Lolita at a Hollywood event, and she said, “That’s a horrible thing to do,” and “No animal on this earth should live in captivity.”

About Lindsay Lohan: “I’ve known her for many, many years. She grew up with dogs. She said she will definitely support the welfare of this beautiful orca. The first time I told Lindsay about this was two and a half years ago. I said, ‘You need to get into humanitarian causes.’ There’s a whole different new Lindsay Lohan now who is concerned about humanitarian causes.”

One thought on “Celebrities and a ‘beautiful whale’

  1. …”…Hayden Panettiere was involved last year with a group of activists who paddled out on surfboards into a cove in Japan in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt. …”

    I’d like to see the same people attempting to interfere with a Japanese dolphin hunt… do their best to stop the next whale massacre by ‘hunters’ in this part of the country.

    It is one thing to hunt for food, it is unnecessary slaughter to send people out in a fast modern boat carrying high powered rifles they don’t know how to use or shoot, much less hit a target. The noble whale deserves better.
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Enter the word yellow here: