At Elton’s bash, news struck ‘like a heart attack’
Elton John and husband David Furnish on Sunday celebrated the 25th anniversary of their annual Academy Awards viewing party, which this year raised $7 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
But it was the night’s Oscar flub — when the wrong bestpicture winner was announced at the ceremony — that really had guests talking.
The room initially fell silent when the confusion over which film had won best picture unfolded on screen, then erupted in baffled chatter.
“Wow. Thank (expletive) we didn’t have Warren Beatty do the auction,” John quipped as he took the stage to introduce the liveauction portion of the party.
Auction items included a 13carat diamond Bulgari necklace and five days at Steven Tyler’s Hawaiian retreat.
Musician John and Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, got into a bidding war over a Norman Seeff black and white print of Carly Simon, which John won for $70,000. Other pledges for contributions came throughout the night from such guests as Peter Fonda, Ciara and Russell Wilson and Adam Lambert.
As usual, a second wave of guests arrived around 10 p.m. PT, just in time for a musical perfor- mance by Alabama soul band St. Paul & The Broken Bones. But for those who had just finished watching the live show, the night’s big snafu still lingered.
“It was like experiencing a heart attack,” Hidden Figures’ Aldis Hodge said. He watched the bestpicture mix-up unfold from the audience of the Dolby Theatre. “We didn’t know until some of the stage managers started running out. We were like, what was going on? Could there be security risk or something?
“It’s really unfortunate,” continued the actor. “I’m proud of
Moonlight. I’m happy they won. At the same time though, I don’t think that anybody on the La La
Land team deserves to feel that moment of loss. They handled it with such class and grace. I’m very proud to see that.”
Earlier in the night, John reflected on the legacy of his Oscars viewing party.
“I never thought we’d get to 25 years,” John said, looking dapper in a blue Burberry tuxedo. The fundraiser, which started out with a dinner for 140 people at Maple Drive restaurant, has to date raised more than $56 million for the cause.
“It’s grown from a little seed into a big tree,” John said.
The cause is as relevant as it was two decades ago. “HIV/AIDS continues to be a global issue,” said Furnish, dressed in Yves Saint Laurent. “We’re making some fantastic strides, but it’s important that people are not marginalized in society and that everybody is treated equally and fairly. In our case, it’s access to testing and treatment and that’s more important than anything.”
In a political climate that has left many unnerved, the benefit appeared more important to its longtime supporters than ever.
“I feel like it’s a good reminder to never be complacent, and that the fight is never fully over,” said Andrew Rannells, a member of the host committee. “Achievements can be wiped away very quickly these days, it seems like. So this is a great reminder that we always have to be diligent.”
While the cause was close to the heart of many attendees, guests were equally ready to take a break from a politically charged award season and instead spend an evening celebrating the arts over a five-course dinner prepared by chef Gordon Ramsay.
Said Andie MacDowell as she entered the party: “I’m so tired of politics. I just want to have some fun.”
David Furnish and Elton John arrive Sunday to host their 25th annual Academy Awards viewing party, which raises money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Quincy Jones and model Petra Nemkova, inset, were among the A-list guests.