Sir Elton John dealt with a bad knee but that did not keep him from graciously welcoming his guests and hosting the 25th EJAF Academy Awards Viewing and After Party with husband David Furnish in Hollywood Park whilst raising a staggering 5.9 million for HIV/AIDS. He thanked his main sponsors Bulgari, Tesla, M.A.C. and American Airlines and introduced illusionist David Jarre who astounded the best movie critics among us when he predicted the Best Picture Oscar winner. Jarre incorporated a BVLGARI Octo Roma watch into his illusion, which was auctioned at the end of the event with the name of his Best Picture prediction embossed on the back. Who knew The Shape of Water could beat Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? Clearly, he did.
Elton has always furthered new musical talent and given his stage to a number of performers who later became superstars.
Tonight we have Greta van Fleet, three young boys from Michigan I saw and was impressed with. We always try to have new acts. We had Florence Welch, John Mayor when he was still unknown, and Ryan Adams who is coming back tonight as a guest. We are the only party that ever had music.
He said proudly. And after the awards were given out, those three young brothers rocked the house.
A dress code memo must have been sent to attendees, and it spelled out “SEQUINS” in capital letters. Hardly anyone showed up without some sort of sparkly, some overdid it, others shined. For models Karolina Kurkova, Adriana Lima and Toni Garrn, Elton’s white carpet turned into a runway that also showcased some real characters in bedazzled lace and matching hair.
For the first time, dinner was catered by the world-renowned Roca Brothers of the Michelin three-star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. Hatt & Söner provided champagne, wines came from the French vineyard Domaine Bertaud Belieu, and spirits were provided by Chopin Vodka and Clase Azul Tequila.
The exclusive fete was attended by true legends: the amazing Gladys Knight happily posed for pictures taken by none other than her greatest fan, a gushing Nicole Scherzinger.
An ageless Joan Collins chatted with EJAF-party regular Peter Fonda. “Yes, you can have a selfie if you walk with me!” she proclaimed when I invoked the olden days of Dynasty when her Alexis Carrington was one of the most beloved TV-villains of all time.
While women – and men – on the Oscar stage at the Dolby Theater talked about the importance of gender equality and the work of organizations like Time’s Up and #MeToo, a feeling of change was also in the air at the party. Andie MacDowell spoke about sexism and ageism and her hope for real progress.
It’s a wonderful moment. When I turned 40, it was normal for people to ask me how it felt to turn 40 and to know I wasn’t gonna be working anymore. It’s a horrible thing to say to anyone. No one has ever said that to a man. We need to wake up to how people used to feel so comfortable to demean women in a way that has been acceptable. It’s time that we embrace women for their true value and worth. As we get older, we are just as beautiful and sexy and loveable. And I have a lot of hope for the future.
Billie Jean King and Lea Michele chimed in.
The party is also home for all those not invited to the ceremony itself and the ones who prefer to mingle in a fun and relaxed setting instead of squeezing into uncomfortable seats at the Dolby Theater where the bar is miles away. Irish actress Kerry Condon, in a stunning, beaded cherry-red Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, jumped up twice when her co-stars Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand took home the gold. Kerry plays Pamela in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. At the patio bar, I introduced her to Sebastian Stan who himself cheered loudly when Allison Janney won for the role of Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya. Sebastian, formerly known for his role in Gossip Girl, plays baddie Jeff Gillooly in the film.
The beautiful and talented Sam Taylor-Johnson wore a gorgeous pink and red Givenchy gown and brought Husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson. It was their first time at EJAF and fitting in a year that celebrates women more than ever: Sam is in the shameful only 11% of female directors in Hollywood and made one of the highest grossing films of 2015, Fifty Shades of Grey. Aaron, of course, won a Golden Globe last year for his memorable role in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.
On a night when Hollywood celebrates itself – even more so than on the other 364 days of the year – it is wonderful to know that all the money spent on one glittering party goes towards a great cause: HIV/AIDS research, prevention and cure.
And at the end of the night, the queen that reigned the most supreme was none other than Elizabeth II. A pink and white pop-art painting of the British monarch was sold for $270,000 at the live auction, the highest bid of the night. “We are aiming to get rid of the disease by 2030 when I’ll be long under the ground but my boys will carry on the legacy. But as long as I can sit up and breathe I’ll raise money for this cause. Bad knees or not”, said Elton John before he left on a late-night flight back to London to hug his sons Zachary, 7 and Elijah, 5.