Immediately after the Oscar telecast’s shock ending, Sir Elton John got on the microphone at his annual Oscar viewing party and fundraiser to address a stunned crowd.
“We wanted Warren Beatty to do the auction,” Elton deadpanned.
Before he could begin the fundraising portion of the evening that led to a $7 million haul for the 25th annual event, he addressed the “La La Land” mistake.
“As much I wanted ‘Moonlight’ to win, we have to feel bad for ‘La La Land’,” he continued. “So tough to give it back.”
He then directed the crowd to a key figure in another nationally-televised shock ending to the only television event of the year bigger than the Oscars: Super Bowl LI.
Elton singled out New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (top photo, far left) and congratulated him on the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl comeback win. (In a recent interview, Kraft cited Elton John as the most famous person in his cellphone.)
The Elton crowd included Quincy Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabby Douglas, Eli Roth, NFL star Russell Wilson and his pregnant wife, Ciara.
Sharon Stone (seated at Elton’s side at the main table) is a regular, as are Eric McCormack, Chris Hardwick, and the guestlist was flush with LGBTQ icons like Caitlyn Jenner, Ruby Rose, Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert, Candis Cayne and Andreja Pejic.
It was a strongly pro-“Moonlight” room throughout the night.
Compared to the crowd’s enthusiastic response to Barry Jenkins’ adapted screenplay win midway through the show, “La La” director Damien Chazelle’s win over Jenkins later in the night garnered no notable applause here. However, as it played well everywhere else, Viola Davis’ speech went over big at this viewing party.
Organizers really put the “view” in the viewing party this year, keeping the lights down low throughout the night.
This led to people staying in their seats most of the night and actually watching the telecast, and also cued guests to “stay put” during ABC’s commercial breaks, when the actual commercials were replaced with a parade of celebrities making live pitches for donations.
“At this party it’s not rude to be texting on your phone,” Judith Light said, flanked by her “Transparent” cast members Tambor, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass. Donations via text with inspirational messages flowed across the screens. EJAF’s Scott Campbell fired off the first one of the night — for $5,000.
Overshadowed by the shock-ending aftermath of the show — that had Elton and husband/EJAF Chairman David Furnish’s guests standing up out of their seats yelling “What?!?” — were some remarks Elton made about his and the foundation’s philosophy towards Donald Trump.
“We’re going to extend an olive branch to the new administration,” Elton said. “I’ve already written to [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson,” he continued, noting that AIDS is a global epidemic. “We have to work with people.”
The EJAF will be freshly-loaded to work with people from the huge haul on the night. Beyond donors and sponsors like Audi, MAC Cosmetics, BVLGARI, Neuro Drinks, and philanthropist Diana Jenkins, the tally clicked higher on account of some outrageous auction bidding.
One man from Germany put up $75,000 for two tickets to the Vanity Fair party, leaving the EJAF party shortly after with a sealed box marked “Vanity Fair.” A 1970 photograph print of Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin went for over $140,000. A stay at Steven Tyler’s Hawaii estate brought in $70,000.
— @CelebSightings (@CelebSightings) February 27, 2017
All donations on the night were matched dollar-for-dollar by Survival Pictures’ upcoming feature “The Promise” (Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac) which tells the story of the Armenian Genocide at the outset of World War I. Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) directs, and was on hand to address the audience. With the film fully financed by the late businessman Kirk Kerkorian, all producer proceeds from the first dollar will be donated to organizations including the EJAF. Open Road releases the film next month.
After the auction, Sir Elton joined St. Paul & The Broken Bones on stage for a set that finally put everyone on their feet for the rest of the night.
The dance crew in the audience included Candace Cameron Bure, Tim Allen, and Aisha Tyler (who would soon downgrade her footwear to flip flops at the after-party.)
Speaking of the rubber slip-on shoe that often serves as a proverbial fashion “concession speech” on awards nights, Amazon Studios handed out flip flops at their party over at Delilah in West Hollywood. Casey Affleck was inside that bash that, like the EJAF, had been going on since 4 p.m.
Back at Elton’s, the party reached its peak around 11 p.m.
Russell Simmons was cruising through the tents talking on his phone (wearing both earpieces of a set of headphones) and the bars were down to using plastic cups for champagne, having retired the glassware.
Gary Michael Walters, the Bold Films CEO/Co-Founder behind three of Ryan Gosling’s huge hits, and who produced and financed Chazelle’s first film “Whiplash,” had a unique perspective on “La La Land’s” yanked-away Best Picture moment.
“Damien deserves credit for being a brilliant director. Whether he won [best] picture or not is irrelevant,” Walters told the Party Report. “He earned the director award. And we’re very proud that we launched him.”
As for any Jimmy Kimmel collateral damage in the snafu, Walters was similarly optimistic.
“Jimmy Kimmel was terrific,” he continued. “They need to bring him back … with the right envelope next time.”
As the night wound down at Elton’s, Sting rolled out of the West Hollywood Park complex just before midnight. The singer, wife Trudie Styler, and their entourage piled into one SUV. While Sting said “I’ll take the front,” and hopped in shotgun, three of his friends opted for the caboose.
The stream of Audis that had shuttled in the VIPs began to peel off for other parties. (The Q7 that drove this party columnist away was the same one that shuttled Leonardo DiCaprio to the Oscars hours earlier. The reigning Best Actor had gone to the Oscars solo, sitting in the front seat next to the driver.)
For context on how long Elton’s foundation gathering has been a global fixture, the last Oscar night without the Elton John party saw “Silence of the Lambs” eat its competition for dinner. (The cannibalistic Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins flick won Best Picture and five Oscars back when George H. W. Bush was president in 1992.)
Over the quarter-century, the EJAF has now raised $385 million after Sunday night’s raise.
What started at Maple Drive restaurant in Beverly Hills, then moved to the parking lot across from world-famous gay bar The Abbey in West Hollywood, and was a partnership with InStyle Magazine for several years.
As it grew in the 2000s, the EJAF relocated to the Pacific Design Center plaza (where HBO throws its Emmy night bashes) before the City of West Hollywood began donating the park on the west side of San Vicente Boulevard for the past several years.
The silver décor throughout the space echoed the event’s “silver anniversary” in the fight against AIDS. Elton wove in a lyric to mark the moment:
“As the song goes, after 25 years, ‘We’re Still Standing.'”