These days, Ajeti might have to settle for George Clooney. By all accounts, NATO is doing an impressive job of looking after some 750,000 displaced Kosovars now under the alliance's care in the Serbian border regions of Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina: plenty of tents and blankets, food and water, and even battery chargers for cell phones so that refugees can contact their relatives. In some camps, makeshift convenience stores have sprung up, selling soda, meat pies and other homelike conveniences at affordable Balkan prices. But as international aid workers fight traditional camp scourges such as cholera and dysentery, they are also starting to gripe about another epidemic, one peculiar to the age of the televised war: celebrities.
Along with Gere, who caught some flak for touring the Stenkovec camp in a chauffeured Audi, the Tinseltown-to-tent-city floodgates have clearly been opened: Vanessa Redgrave, Bianca Jagger, Roger Moore and former J. D. Salinger squeeze Joyce Maynard have all been there. Gwyneth Paltrow is mulling a visit, as are Christie Brinkley and hubby Peter Cook. From the Beltway, Hillary Clinton and Liddy Dole have pressed the flesh. And no less an assemblage than Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Boyz II Men and Luciano Pavarotti is signed to do a benefit for the Kosovar kids in Munich in June. Do we hear "We Are the Balkans"?
For many U.N. types, the glitterati are an unwelcome distraction. "Celebrities draw a lot of attention, but we are trying to do this without the flashing lights," Macedonian UNICEF representative Eddie McLoughney told the Ottawa Times. "We learned a lot from Gere's visit. The problem is the focus can end up on the celebrities and the stir they cause rather than the plight of the children." Certainly, for harried aid workers spending their days trying to keep the teeming camps organized, peaceful and above all sanitary, the pint-sized stampedes set off by goodwill ambassador Moore's cratefuls of Teletubbies and Winnie-the-Poohs must have caused king-size headaches.