John Varvatos' cadre of celebrity friends and clientele opened its hearts -- and wallets -- to the tune of $957,000 at a Sunday afternoon fundraiser that included a live auction, an impassioned speech by host Chris Pine and a musical set by Ziggy Marley.
This year marks the 12th that the designer has hosted the Stuart House benefit to raise money for the UCLA Rape Treatment Center's program for sexually abused children, and the funds raised will help the organization finish construction on a new expanded facility that Stuart House founder and director Gail Abarbanel says is slated to open this fall.
"We're two-thirds there with a new building," Abarbanel told the crowd of 1,800 attendees, "and we'll be able to double our capacity to serve kids. And every one of you here is reaching out to each of those kids just by being here -- so thank you very much."
Varvatos' own celebrity status helped raise $120,000 of the funds in a single, spirited live-auction sparring when four different parties -- each vying for a single New York City shopping spree with the designer acting as their very own personal stylist -- agreed to plunk down $30,000 apiece after Varvatos unexpectedly agreed to throw in three additional shopping trips.
The rest of the funds were raised through ticket sales, private donations, silent auction items, merchandise sales and a few additional live auction items -- including a private listening event for 20 people with music producer Eddie Kramer that fetched $16,000, with the winning bid placed by "2 Broke Girls" star Beth Behrs. Since there's an accompanying online auction at charitybuzz.com/johnvarvatos that will continue to accept bids through May 6, the final amount raised this year is likely to top $1 million. (By comparison, last year's event raised $939,000 in a single afternoon, and by the time the online auction had ended it had reached a record $1.1 million.)
The event, which takes place on a tented two-block stretch of Melrose Avenue adjacent to the designer's West Hollywood boutique, always draws a constellation of stars and this year's celebrity set seemed more eclectic than usual. Among those we spotted rubbing elbows, munching burgers from an In-N-Out truck and milling about were musicians Billy Ray Cyrus, Matt Sorum, LL Cool J and Michael Bolton; actors Eric McCormack, Tommy Chong, David Schwimmer, Jesse Metcalfe, Lydia Hearst, Zach Braff and Maggie Grace; comedian Bill Bellamy; and designer/stylist Rachel Zoe.