Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Elton Raises $5.1 Million for EJAF

John shared his table with husband David Furnish, Sharon Stone, Billy Joel, Josh Groban, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia deRossi, and Mary J. Blige (who joined John on stage for a duet).

Stone helped John facilitate an auction. Among the hot items: a set of five celebrity-designed pairs of Chopard sunglasses that went for $35,000, a Helmut Newton photograph of four naked women which sold back to its donator, June Newton, for $900,000, and a 1974 Corvette Stingray, donated by Stone, that sold for a cool mil.

To encourage higher bids, John teased his audience, "I'll take my trousers off," which inspired Stone to add, "I would, but you've all already seen that before."

"That's the other stingray we want to sell," John cracked back.

John and Furnish made an effort to visit with each table. "The tables are expensive so we do this every year," John explained. "If you don't do this, people think you're taking them for granted."

Furnish was in charge of choosing the party colors, orange and pink, based on colors he saw as a guest at Elizabeth Hurley's wedding in India. "If you were a friend of the bride you wore a pink turban, and if you were a friend of the groom you wore an orange turban," Furnish recalled. "We were broken into these teams and then we all played cricket."

John performed a full set of songs, a first at the annual affair. "I've never played at my own Oscar party," said John. "It was so uncertain as to whether the party was going to happen (because of the recently resolves writer's strike), so we didn't have enough time to ask a younger act to do it. So I said, 'I'll do it!' "

Though he'd promised John he would perform, Prince failed to take the stage, disappointing many who'd been looking forward to the performance.

Earlier in the evening, Furnish explained, "Elton's been on stage with Prince in Vegas and London. They have such mutual respect for each other as artists. He's going to perform at our party and then we're going to his later."

DeGeneres and deRossi were so busy socializing in the smoking tent, that they missed Tilda Swinton's win. "I chose Tilda on my ballot," said an excited deRossi.

"We got stuck out there talking to Sean Penn and Simon Cowell," added DeGeneres before taking deRossi's hand and walking back to their table.

Penn, newly split from wife Robin Wright, brought along Petra Nemcova as his date. The two were very affectionate at their table, which also sat Chris O'Donnell and Kate Beckinsale.

Beckinsale was disappointed when she was served a plate of lobster risotto. "I'm allergic to lobster," she said with a frown. "I'm going to have to give it away or I'll be needing epinephrine later."

Others in attendance: Marion Cotillard, Tom Wilkinson, Sean Combs, Courtney Love, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Driver and Amy Adams.

The high point of the evening for Stone: "When we were all singing Benny and the Jets, and I looked around and saw the whole audience in black tie just singing their hearts out with youthful abandon. It was like everyone was at their high school dance.

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