A Berks County teen compiled video greetings from 50 celebrities to thank essential workers.
Released Christmas Eve via YouTube, greetings include Academy Award and Emmy nominees, Tony and Grammy winners and Billboard chart toppers all gathered by Rode'o Marie Hanson, 14, a teen entertainment columnist from Fleetwood.
“Over 50 Hollywood celebrities and stars… have come together and joined forces this holiday season to send video messages of thanks and motivation to those essential workers and frontliners who have given so selflessly during the challenging times of the recent coronavirus pandemic,” said Hanson, who spent two months on the project.
“Much like snowflakes in winter, no two celebrity video greetings from the star studded cast are alike. Jimmy Hawkins and Jeanine Ann Roose, who played Tommy Bailey and Little Violet respectively in ‘It's A Wonderful Life,’ brought a sense of optimism to their messages echoing the iconic film in which they appeared 74 years ago. Kelly Stewart Harcourt, daughter of the late Jimmy Stewart, who portrayed Bedford Falls' most famous resident George Bailey, compared essential workers to George because they too make sacrifices for others.”
Inspired by events at Braskem America this past spring, when workers lived at the factory for 28 days to make face masks, Hanson said she was motivated to bring a positive message to every day heroes in a creative and dynamic way.
Hanson came up with the concept of 30 to 60 second celebrity video greetings acknowledging the efforts of cashiers, professional cleaners, nurses, doctors, police officers and other frontline workers in the unprecedented era of COVID-19. She chose celebrities because they have a platform and ability to reach a wide audience.
“The overall purpose of the video is to heighten awareness of those anonymous every day heroes who rarely get the credit they deserve for voluntarily putting themselves out there for us,” said Hanson. “We thank you and will never forget your sacrifices.”
Christmas Eve, Hanson posted “Rodeo's Drive Thru: 50 Hollywood Stars Send Special Thanks to Essential Workers!” on her YouTube channel, Rodeos Drive-Thru Hollywood News. The video has been viewed about 900 times since.
Through her entertainment column “Rodeo's Drive-Thru Hollywood News,” published by Berks-Mont Newspapers, Hanson developed contacts with celebrities and their representatives, but people working remotely amid the pandemic made it challenging for her to connect with them. Using social media, Hanson said she was able to track down agents, managers, publicists and in some cases the celebrities themselves.
“The goal was 50 greetings, a number chosen because of its symbolic representation of total states in the country,” she said. “Artists featured in the video greetings are a virtual who's who of showbiz from Hollywood's Golden Era to fast emerging stars. It is the most eclectic and diverse collection of talent ever assembled representing multiple genres and generations of actors, comedians, film directors and musicians.”
“All participants saw the value in using their celebrity platform to give voice to a message of gratitude and appreciation,” she added.
In the middle of December, she wondered if her goal was too ambitious.
“Hollywood traditionally shuts down for the year right around that time.”
Hanson credits her belief in the message she wanted to bring to essential workers combined with a relentless work ethic made her more determined to succeed.
“Similar to the plot of ‘It's A Wonderful Life’ or the script of a Christmas themed film, the 50th greeting plus a few more arrived like beautifully wrapped gifts as the hours to the deadline dwindled.”
Each artist had a unique take on the subject of essential workers and the pandemic, she said.
“From heartfelt somberness to comic relief, the messages serve as historic snapshots capturing difficulties the world is facing due to coronavirus with authenticity and honesty,” she said. “On another level they illustrate the importance of family and how America can come together, rise to challenges, and overcome any adversity.”
Joyce Randolph, best known as Trixie Norton in the classic TV series ‘The Honeymooners,’ takes everyone back to a more innocent time with her greeting and message of thanks. Actor Patrick Kilpatrick and comedian Tom Dreesen relay their personal experiences with COVID. Barry Williams (Greg Brady of The Brady Bunch) sings "Sunshine Day" with some alternate coronavirus inspired lyrics, said Hanson.
“Tony Darrow (Goodfellas, The Sopranos) shows his respect for those on the frontlines fighting the pandemic while Tony winner Joan Allen (The Notebook, The Bourne Supremacy) expresses a debt of gratitude that is never ending to the essential workers.”
While there are thematic elements of Christmas and winter holidays in the videos, Hanson believes that the sentiment expressed in them is relevant all year long. Her favorite part of the project is that it uplifts the human spirit.
“Illustrating what can be accomplished when people come together for a common cause. Yes, what a wonderful life and world it can be!”
View Rodeo's Drive Thru: 50 Hollywood Stars Send Special Thanks to Essential Workers! on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL-T98W4H_M&t=2158s.