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John Williams honored at L.A. Phil Gala

John Williams honored at L.A. Phil Gala
Gustavo Dudamel, center, poses for a picture with composer John Williams, left, and violinist Itzhak Perlman at the gala dinner after the LA Phil's season opening concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

The event: The LA Phil 2014 Gala launched the Los Angeles Philharmonic's season Tuesday with "A Celebration of John Williams" at Walt Disney Concert Hall, raising a whopping $3.5 million for the organization and its education programs.

It was fitting that the night's honoree is a giant of the music scene, a composer who has won multiple Grammy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Emmy and Academy awards and who is considered one of the greatest of all time for his film scores.

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The performance: Superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman played selections from "Schindler's List," for which Williams won one of his five Academy Awards. On a screen behind the stage, images of Johnny Depp, Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster, Sir Lancelot, Captain Hook, Puss in Boots and many more crossed swords in classic film clips, as LA Phil music director Gustavo Dudamel conducted "The Duel" from "The Adventures of Tintin." The rousing "Star Wars" finale, accompanied by the film's artwork in a Netia Jones video, ended the official program. Yet there was more.

As an encore, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, joined by the Angeles Chorale, sang the poetic "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from "Amistad" and then ran off screaming, as Dudamel and the orchestra dove into the "Jaws" theme. Finally, Williams ascended the podium to lead the orchestra in the "Imperial March," as Imperial stormtroopers paraded onstage, followed by Darth Vader and a hail of confetti in the shapes of R2-D2 and C-3PO.

The gala dinner: Outside the party tent, Vader and the stormtroopers posed for pictures with guests, while inside, guests at one table plunked on pointed party hats to help Julie Andrews celebrate her birthday. LA Phil Chair Diane Paul, LA Phil President and Chief Executive Deborah Borda and Dudamel said a few words, and then the original Mos Eisley Cantina band joined the party, offering up their famous "Star Wars" tune.

Throughout the evening, guests congratulated Dudamel, Perlman and Williams. "I'm a fan of Gustavo Dudamel. I'm a fan of Itzhak Perlman and I'm a big fan of John Williams," said Anjelica Huston.

As for Williams, he simply said, "I'm very happy. The LA Phil is a beautiful orchestra."

The crowd: Among others attending were actors Stana Katic, Matthew Lillard, Alex Meneses, Don Johnson, William Shatner, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Marietta "Retta" Sirleaf and Anne Jeffreys; L.A. County supervisors Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. County Chief Executive William Fujioka, Jane and Michael Eisner, Eva and Marc Stern, Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, Gigi and Herbie Hancock, Katherine Ross, LACMA Chief Executive Michael Govan, Michael Feinstein, Alyce Williamson and Frank Gehry. Diane Paul, David Bohnett and Ann Ronus co-chaired the gala.

Quote of note: Said Dudamel from onstage to Williams: "We are here tonight to pay homage to your genius and to your heart, because you are one of the best composers in our time. But the most important thing is, you are a great human being."

The numbers: Tickets for cocktails, the concert and gala dinner for 630 guests began at $2,500, with tables ranging up to $150,000 and Rolex providing sponsorship.

For the latest in party news, follow Ellen Olivier on Twitter: @SocietyNewsLA

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