Accepting the Award of Courage on Friday at amfAR Gala Los Angeles, Julia Roberts said she would like to consider the evening her “two-week-early, 50th-birthday party,” a remark greeted by whistles, cheers and applause.
And no wonder — such an early celebration seemed like a good idea. The black-tie affair would have been hard to top, especially after Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, appearing as a surprise guest entertainer, sang four songs, including a new tune he called “Julia’s Smile” and a duet with James Corden, the night’s host. To top things off, Tom Hanks presented the award to Roberts, and eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer Fergie closed the evening with a high-powered performance.
Taking place at entrepreneur Ron Burkle’s sprawling Greenacres estate in Beverly Hills, Friday’s gala, presented by Hong Kong-based financial group AMTD, jewelry brand Harry Winston and beauty line MAC Viva Glam with additional support from Moët Hennessy, Cadillac, PatBo, Fiji Water and others, benefited amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. Given the star power in the audience, Corden started off with a few words about fired movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who faces accusations of misconduct against dozens of women.
“It has been weird this week, though, hasn’t it? Watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water?” Corden quipped. “Ask any of the women who’ve been watching him take a bath. It’s weird watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water.”
The A-list gathering included Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Cheyenne Jackson, Busy Philipps, Diane Sawyer, Sophia Bush, Melanie Griffith, Goldie Hawn, Victoria Justice, Ryan Murphy and others. Clothing designer Kenneth Cole, producer Jason Weinberg and Burkle co-chaired the event with talent agents Kevin Huvane, Bryan Lourd, Richard Lovett and Ida Ziniti as honorary chairs.
Guests lounged in the manicured gardens before moving into a tent for dinner, performances, the official ceremonies and an auction, which heated up quickly. No sooner had bidding begun for a lunch with Roberts, MattBomer and Murphy did Hanks, Corden and Penn jump in to participate in the lunch, bringing the final bidding to $110,000.
“Never ever sit at Julia Roberts’ table while an auction is going on,” Hanks said. “Never. Don’t do it. She tells you to buck up the price. She tells you to bid something. Next thing you know you’re having lunch with strangers.”
To the auction winners, Hanks said, “I’m going to tell you right now. You’d better be so … fascinating at this lunch. ... You’d better be loaded with funny anecdotes because I’m not talking. … We’re not going to entertain you. I’m telling you that right now. You are going to entertain us — simple as that. And if we find out you’ve got [a] bad attitude, guess what? We’re just going to put you in my Ford Transit [van]. And we’re going to drive you to In & Out, and that’s going to be it. And you’re paying for it still. So it’ll be about $110,000 and $24.96.”
The two-time Oscar-winning actor then turned to his introduction of Roberts. On a more serious note, he spoke of her devotion to her family and her charitable pursuits and how, in “the language of quality,” a comparison to Roberts is the “apex of a compliment.”
For her part, Roberts said, “I’m just an actor. I try to make the right choices in life and in art, and the truth is, I wish I were Frances McDormand but I’m not. I’m not Diane Sawyer. I’m not Sheryl Sandberg, people that are just so authentic and talented and dazzling and people who are just inspiring and good and true and gifted at saying things to wonderful people like you and making you rise up and believe in that.”
Mentioning the progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, the Oscar-winning actress said, “[On] a night like this, if we don’t take our foot off the gas, then by 2020 we can insure that no children will be born with HIV anymore, becoming the first HIV-free generation. And if we get to that milestone, then by 2030 we can rid the world of AIDS altogether.”
More than $2 million was raised from tickets for the 450 guests, which ranged from $3,000 each to $75,000 for a table of 12.
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