In the wake of last week’s massive explosion that devastated Beirut, a GoFundMe campaign popped up for the Lebanese capital’s Le Chef restaurant.
The goal was modest: $13,000 to repair windows, electrical wiring and kitchen equipment destroyed in the Aug. 4 blast.
As the donations started rolling in — mostly $10, $25, $50 — one stood out. A generous donor listed as “Russell Crowe” had sent $5,000.
Late on Tuesday, journalist Richard Hall, one of the organizers of the fundraiser, noticed the name.
— Richard Hall (@_RichardHall) August 13, 2020
A few hours later the Russell Crowe — Oscar-winning star of Gladiator, L.A. Confidential, and A Beautiful Mind — responded: “On behalf of Anthony Bourdain. I thought he probably would have done so if he was still around. I wish you and Le Chef the best and hope things can be put back together soon.”
Bourdain, who died by suicide in 2018, first featured Beirut on his Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2006. Le Chef was the first restaurant he visited.
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“This place felt kind of familiar,” Bourdain said in the episode, “Like a New York diner … It was that nice mix of old school, new school, neighborhood. Really good food. Very traditional.”
That meal would be one of the only Bourdain actually filmed on the trip. In the middle of production the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out. Beirut was heavily bombed, and Bourdain and his crew were eventually evacuated by the U.S. Marines, along with other foreigners trapped in the city.
Another organizer of the fundraiser, Amanda Bailly, told NBC News that they initially thought it “was a joke and that someone we knew thought it would be a funny way to give anonymously.”
The independent filmmaker added that it was “so generous” of the actor to donate.
“It goes to show that Lebanese hospitality has made an impression on people around the world who are now keen to support Lebanon,” said Bailly, 32.
Crowe’s generosity comes as Beirut again struggles to get on its feet after last Tuesday’s explosion that ripped through the city.
A fixture in the city’s Gemmayze neighborhood since 1967, Le Chef is a simple restaurant known for its homestyle cooking and the booming “Welcomes!” of its owner, Charbel Bassil.
The country was already struggling with an economic crisis before the explosion. With government services nearly nonexistent, Lebanese generosity and resilience, strengthened during 15 years of civil war in the 1970s and 80s, took their place.
Neighbors and strangers alike came together to rush the wounded to hospitals, and in the aftermath, clear the debris and begin the slow process of rebuilding.
Numerous GoFundMe campaigns and donation drives for NGOs have been launched. They’ve raised millions of dollars for everyone from first responders to individual families to museums and restaurants.
Bourdain looked back on Beirut in an interview for the Emmy Awards years after that first, ill-fated trip, “It got all of us thinking about a lot of things, you know, what’s important in life…it was a big, everything-changed-sort-of-thing.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.