Friday, March 4, 2016
Elton John's Oscars Bash Raised $6.2 Million
“I remember the first one very well,” the singer added. “We raised about $300,000 and we thought we were the best thing since sliced bread.”
How times have changed: On this night, the event would go on to raise $6.2 million by evening’s end. Undoubtedly, the main draw for guests was John, who served not only as host but also as the entertainment, performing with his band at the bash for the first time in nearly a decade.
Inside the Oscar viewing party, guests dined on a five-course dinner while watching the ceremony seated at an array of circular tables topped with centerpieces of red lilies amidst a lavish color scheme of magenta, tangerine and violet. “It’s Old Hollywood with a modern twist,” said Tommy Hilfiger after exchanging air-kisses with Mariah Carey.
Nearby, Transparent’s Jeffrey Tambor had a man-to-man conversation with the singer of “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” Steven Tyler. The Academy Awards seemed to be of little interest to John, who missed Sam Smith’s performance in favor of catching up with Beck and similarly chatted intently with Sheryl Crow while The Weeknd performed; only Lady Gaga’s ballad drew Elton’s attention to the screens hanging overhead.
After dinner and a live auction that included a “five-day shag-athon” at the Maui vacation home of Tyler, according to the auctioneer, John quipped: “I’m now going to change into something a little spectacular.”
John soon reemerged onstage in -- what else? -- a rhinestone-studded jacket to perform a 12-song greatest hits set along with songs from his new album, Wonderful Crazy Night, which he gifted to guests. “If you don’t want to play it, you can use them as frisbees or coasters,” John joked.
Oscars night is all about getting excited over Hollywood -- except at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's Academy Awards Viewing Party, where it's also about giving back.
And, um, getting excited over Hollywood.
"Spotlight" was buzzed about as guests filled out their Oscar ballots in the bright outdoor cocktail area, where Caitlyn Jenner towered over one fan as the two posed for a selfie on the way in. Mariah Carey made her way in with a small entourage while overhead Leonardo DiCaprio, who was over in Hollywood at the ceremony, could be seen doing a red-carpet interview on the many TV screens peppering the elaborate tented venue in West Hollywood Park.
Among those walking the red carpet at the Elton event were Charlie Sheen in a T-shirt emblazoned with his own face and the words "Be positively negative,"Boy George in a black hat so enormous that Pharrell's hats would be put to shame, Vince Vaughn, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, Karreuche Tran, Kelly Rowland, Zooey Deschanel and no fewer than three Ashley/Ashlees: Tisdale, Greene and Simpson.
Young actor Jacob Tremblay of "Room" made an appearance at one point after making a splash on the Oscars red carpet earlier in the day.
In the dimly lit indoor part of the cocktail area, Heidi Klum, a regular at the event, now in its 24th year, posed with Jenner, designer Zac Posen and TV personality Kelly Osborne. But could Gene Simmons see what was going on? The KISS frontman had dark shades on the entire night.
Then it was time for dinner and the show, but no big rush. Despite the best efforts of the man on the public-address system, the move of hundreds of people into the dining room wasn't even close to complete until around the time Alicia Vikander was accepting her supporting actress statue -- well after Chris Rock's introductory monologue and a couple of writing awards.
"Fighting AIDS means fighting the things that divide us. Ending AIDS means ending these injustices," host Elton John told the gathering at the first commercial break, by way of welcome. "By being here tonight, you are saying no to stigma, no to the status quo, and yes to a more just and equal society and the end of AIDS."
His husband, David Furnish, followed up with how-to-pledge instructions, inviting guests to text dollar amounts and messages that would be projected on the dining room's 18 screens during later breaks in the action. By the end of the night, $6.2 million would be raised for the foundation.
Guests enjoyed a five-course meal designed for the fourth year by Gordon Ramsay, and food and chatter pulled a lot of the attention for the bulk of the show. With celebrities concentrated at tables down front but also peppered throughout the room, the formally dressed crowd chatted among themselves and enjoyed cured salmon, a celeriac-apple soup, filet mignon or sea bass and then a salad, served European-style after the main course. As the wine and Champagne flowed in the room -- styled with orange carpet, magenta and purple seat covers, red tulip centerpieces and geometric designs projected in light on a dark-pink ceiling -- the conversation picked up in intensity.
The best song category, however, got the attention of the dinner guests, who appeared to be rooting for a win by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga, the latter of whom had played a free concert with Elton on Saturday on the Sunset Strip as a thank-you to the city of West Hollywood for its continuing hospitality. After a huge round of applause in the room for Gaga's performance on the broadcast, a big group "awwwww" met the announcement of Sam Smith's victory, though his heartfelt (albeit mistaken) speech about being the first openly gay Oscar winner (he wasn't) eventually earned him a round of applause.
At yet another commercial break, "Transparent" star Jeffrey Tambor stepped up to solicit donations, and pledges ranging from a dollar to tens of thousands popped up. "Tiny dancer, tiny donation" read the message with one $200 gift.
The veterans of "Glee" were well represented as well, with Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison taking the stage on behalf of the charity while Harry Shum Jr. and "Girls" guy Andrew Rannells looked on.
By the time the major categories rolled around, dinner was done and attention was on the broadcast. The room went nuts when DiCaprio won, and then cranked it up a notch when "Spotlight" took best picture.
With the Oscars in the rear-view mirror, the night stayed starry as the auction rolled out in rapid fashion. A stay at Steven Tyler's Maui vacation home went for $80,000, with a promise from the Aerosmith singer that the winners would enjoy five nights of behaving like bonobo monkeys, who are among the most sexual creatures in the animal kingdom.
The red, white and plus platform heels Lady Gaga wore with her sparkly red suit when she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl weren't in the auction book, but drew $55,000 nonetheless.
Then the final lot -- two tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscar post-party, with the winners departing straight from the Elton shindig in WeHo to the magazine's star-studded fete in Beverly Hills -- went up for sale. Bidding hung up for a few minutes in the middle five-figures, then shot up to $100,000 and sold.
And what about the winners of the Oscar pool, who would take home Bulgari watches worth in the neighborhood of $6,000 each, give or take a grand? It was supposed to be one male and one female winner, but with a three-way tie among the women, the jeweler donated two additional timepieces. Score!
All that was left, other than the after-party festivities, was a performance from Elton himself.
"Now I have to go change into something fabulous," he said. "I'll be right back."
And he did just that, coming back to the stage in a red shirt and shimmering, crystal-encrusted purple tux with the word "Fantastic" emblazoned on the back. The crowd finally ignored the ban on personal photos and whipped out cellphones to capture the show as Elton launched into a rocking set that included favorites such as "Levon," "Benny and the Jets," "Your Song" and a dramatic rendition of "Rocket Man," plus cuts from his new album.
And the party favor? A copy of that CD, "Wonderful Crazy Night," which was also the official name of this year's viewing event.
- LA Times
at 10:00 PM