Standing beside the podium at the seventh annual Sean Penn & Friends Haiti Rising Gala on Jan. 6, the Haitian American actress Garcelle Beauvais didn’t hesitate to name names as she asked people to give from their heart and soul during the night’s second auction.
Spearheaded by Sean Penn, the star-studded affair raised money for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and a coalition of disaster relief organizations in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
“If you have a lot, give a lot,” Beauvais said, before focusing on one face and adding, “Brad Pitt.”
Pitt had bid $120,000 in the night’s first auction to watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones” with cast members Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington, also in attendance at the gala.
Although Pitt lost the prize to a guest who paid $160,000, Pitt continued to bid generously, as did Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Burnett and several others in the crowd. As a result, proceeds totaled about $4 million. Just for the record, Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, were the night’s top bidders, purchasing an artwork by Urs Fischer for $1.5 million.
Held at Milk Studios in Los Angeles, the evening honored DiCaprio for his efforts in combating climate change. Penn, talent agent Bryan Lourd and Napster co-founder Sean Parker and wife Alexandra served as co-hosts, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, were the gala’s presenters.
Tom Steyer introduced DiCaprio but not until after Penn jokingly introduced Steyer, the founder of a campaign to impeach President Trump, as having “the great honor and enviable distinction of having been labeled wacky and unhinged by the president of the United States.”
DiCaprio spoke of the importance of protecting the environment.
“Yet the biggest challenge now,” he said, “is to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake and how climate change will impact them and their future on this planet.”
He criticized the U.S. government’s proposed increase in offshore drilling and rollbacks of solutions to help the environment. “Their denial of so much of the scientific proof and evidence belongs in ‘the Earth is flat’ chapter of human history, and this administration will be judged accordingly in the future.”
Star power blazed through the room with VIPs also including Casey Affleck, Susan Sarandon, Zachary Quinto, Connie Britton, Willem Dafoe, Allison Williams, Beck, Colbie Caillat, Jason Segel, Jeff Bezos and James Taylor, who delivered a surprise performance.
Having visited Haiti and been struck by the country’s lack of basic necessities, Segel said, “To watch Sean [Penn] in action is really inspiring. When you see all the issues, you immediately think, ‘This is too big for me to handle.’ But then you see Sean, who doesn’t take that attitude, but says, ‘No. We chip away bit by bit by bit.’ And you become inspired. So you pick up a shovel and you start.”
Downey also said she and Burnett had come to support Penn’s efforts and appreciated the timing. “It’s lovely to begin the year, here in awards season, where we can turn our attention to those in need and come together in unity to lend support and to give back.
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