Questions Loom As Halle Berry's People Say She's Not Coming
By KENNETH DEAN
Spokespeople for Hollywood superstar Halle Berry say the actress is not coming to Tyler.
But an event organizer with a history of criminal charges insists Ms. Berry will appear at a high-dollar golf tournament and awards dinner next week to raise millions for her organization.
Michelle Johnson, Sisters in Christ founder and executive director, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph she talked to Ms. Berry in April at the Hilton in Los Angeles and the actress said she would come to the event, which is being held at the Cascades Golf Club to raise money for the nonprofit organization.
However, Ms. Berry's publicist company, 42West, said she is not scheduled to appear in Tyler as did Creative Artists Agency, which represents Ms. Berry.
"Unfortunately, Halle will not be in Texas from July 14 to 16," Barney Slobodin, Office of Matt DelPiano/Creative Artists Agency, said.
Ms. Johnson said the event, which also heralded Baltimore Ravens player Cody Glenn, actor Quinton Aaron (of "The Blind Side"), Broadway actress Verlinda Stanton and Hollywood comedian Gayle Palitz as celebrities that will be on hand, is part of a $10 million capital campaign for the nonprofit to make renovations on the Tysen House on East Erwin Street, which the organization hopes will serve as transitional housing for women of domestic abuse.
"I have not received an email from Halle's people, which I sent out an email to them on the 4th and their office is closed. So they will be getting back with me Monday," she said.
After being told neither agent nor publicist had Ms. Berry scheduled to be in Tyler, Ms. Johnson said she believed the Academy Award-winning actress would be attending.
"I talked to (Halle) personally, and she said she would be here to help me out," she said.
When asked whether they would be attending the event, Ms. Stanton said she would be appearing, but Glenn said he would not because of previous engagements.
Aaron and Ms. Palitz were not reached for comment.
Ms. Johnson took offense at the questions, saying she is not trying to scam the public but put on an event to help victims of domestic abuse.
She said Aaron and Ms. Palitz were both coming to the event, but she could not provide any information showing either had guaranteed to appear.
When asked how many have registered to play golf, she said she had just been on PayPal checking the registrations, but she did not have an accurate number.
"We've got phone calls coming in and some can't go online to purchase with Visa and MasterCard, so we're asking them to come by the office to pick up their tickets," she said.
She said that the golfing prices have dropped from the fliers put out originally from $1,000 per person to $1,000 for a team of four and the Color Me Purple Gala Dinner and Auction prices have dropped from $500 to $250 with some tickets for $100 because of complaints about the pricing.
Ms. Johnson was surprised when she was asked by the newspaper about her recent indictment stemming from an April 2009 felony theft charge under her birth name of Denetrius Michelle Johnson.
Smith County records list multiple names for Ms. Johnson, but she said all of the names were names she could use legally.
Ms. Johnson admitted the arrest but stressed she felt it was in part due to the celebrity golf event and other local nonprofits being jealous of her and her organization.
"My past has nothing to do with the cause. You are investing in the cause, not me," she said.
"We have a lot of jealousy here. The nonprofits should be getting along, but everyone fishes from the same pool here so we're reaching out of Smith County," she said.
But when asked about the theft by check charges reaching back to the late 1990s, she replied, "Because for one I just didn't know how to balance a checkbook. It wasn't that hot checks were being written, but not knowing how to balance out my checkbook."
Ms. Johnson said she was not the treasurer of Sisters in Christ and someone else fills that role.
Then she said no money has been exchanged, though she said earlier in the conversation she had been checking her PayPal.
"We have had favor from the Lord, success from the Lord and the billboards and every step of the way no one has put any money forward. It's been God's favor," she said. "If you look in the Bible, there were people with a lot worse than a hot check. At least I'm not a murderer."
Mechele Agbayani Mills, president/CEO Better Business Bureau serving central East Texas, said the BBB has received numerous calls from concerned people about Ms. Johnson's event.
"Charities perform so many vital services in our community," Mrs. Mills said. "When you decide to give, whether it's by sponsoring an event, making a donation or giving of your time, it's important to stop and take the time to research the charity thoroughly to make sure that your efforts are going where you expect."
Mrs. Mills said those wanting to give should make sure the charity is accountable. The BBB has published reports on more than 9,000 national charities that have been assessed against the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
"Do not give cash; always make contributions by check and make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation," she said.
Cascades representatives said the nonprofit must meet some financial commitments by Wednesday or the event would be cancelled, but Ms. Johnson said the event would go on as planned.
"Even if we didn't have Halle Berry or none of that, we're still going to have a big event," she said.