With cellphones out, guests at Elton John’s annual Oscars party raise $7 million for charity


Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at West Hollywood Park. The event, sponsored by Bulgari, Neuro Drinks and Diana Jenkins, is the most visible and successful fundraising event on Oscar night, this year raising an estimated $7 million.

“Silver anniversary. David and I haven’t even reached that milestone yet,” John said from the white carpet, referring to his longtime partner, David Furnish.

That white carpet extended into the party, filling the three tents where the event was set up. Entryways leading to the tents were lined with purple hydrangeas and fuchsia orchids. Both bars offered beverages inspired by the titles of Oscar-nominated films, such as the “In the Moonlight” (vodka, blueberry juice, pear juice, lemon juice and lavender) and the “On the Fence” (vodka, blueberry juice and passion fruit).


As soon as the telecast began, guests took their seats in the main tent, where there was no shortage of flat-screen TVs playing the awards show. As the ceremony opened, Lea Michele, in a top-knot bun and Elie Saab gown, distractedly posed for kissy-face selfies with Brad Goreski.

For the fifth consecutive year, chef Gordon Ramsay prepared the five-course dinner menu, which included tuna sashimi, artichoke soup and a choice of filet mignon or sea bass. It concluded with blue cheese and poached pear and a smoked chocolate mousse.

Throughout the night, celebrities took to the stage to encourage guests to text in their pledges to support the foundation. It was the first year that all pledges would be matched by Survival Pictures.

“All of us are so very fortunate in so many ways, and this is our chance to make a difference,” said Sharon Stone as she encouraged guests to take out their phones and text their pledges.

The stars of Amazon’s “Transparent,” including Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass, did the same.

“At this party, it’s not rude to be texting all night. In fact, we encourage you to be texting all night. In fact, the guy next to you buried in his phone could be a hero,” Landecker said.

During commercial breaks, guests got up from their seats, posing for photos and mingling with friends. Tracee Ellis Ross, in a white fringe dress, posed for the event photographer and peeked at his camera after he snapped.

“Thank you so much. That’s very pretty,” she said before turning to face Laverne Cox. The two then shimmied to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”

Following the awards show, an auction took place and John and Furnish took the microphone to express their views on the current political climate.

“We’re going to extend an olive branch to the new administration,” said John. “We have to work with people, we can’t work against them. I’ve already written to [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson. Dialogue is the most important thing we have.”

The auction offered a photograph of Carly Simon (sold for $70,000), a RETNA painting (sold for $100,000), tickets to that night’s Vanity Fair party (sold for $75,000), among other lots.

Before the musical performance of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, John took the mic for one last reminder.

“This party and our work have always been about love. And about inclusion. And about fairness, for everyone.”


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