As Oscars night finally arrived, Sir Elton John let out an audible sigh. The legendary singer was on the white carpet, with spouse David Furnish, at his annual Academy Awards viewing party held to raise funds for The Elton John AIDS Foundation. It’s an event he’s hosted for 25 years, though he couldn’t believe how quickly time had passed. “It’s a silver anniversary,” he said. “David and I haven’t got to our silver anniversary quite yet.”
John explained that the event has grown from a small dinner party with 140 guests to a star-studded soiree with nearly 1,000 attendees in a tent erected just for the night at The City of West Hollywood Park. “Obviously, we want everyone to have a good time,” he said, “but the reason we do this is to raise money. It’s not about people with Oscars coming in. It’s about people feeling like part of our organization.” The night raised $7 million for AIDS/HIV research and initiatives.
Freida Pinto, Ciara, Tracee Ellis Ross, Heidi Klum, Caitlyn Jenner, Lea Michele and Ruby Rose were among those who were in for said, “good time.” The winter wonderland-themed space featured white tulips, mirrored tables and a five-course meal designed by Chef Gordon Ramsay as the crowd watched the ceremony on large flat screen TVs.
“It’s a beautiful night,” cooed Ciara, on the arm of her quarterback husband Russell Wilson. “It’s always so much fun. Every year, [Elton] calls and e-mails everyone, so people come out for his big event,” said longtime attendee Klum. “I love the concept of partying with a purpose,” added Pinto.
With Bulgari as the party’s returning sponsor, the night was also a good excuse for Hollywood to drip in diamonds. Michelle Dockery, Lottie Moss, Josephine Skriver, Jasmine Sanders and Caroline Vreeland were among the women who wore pieces by the Italian jeweler while John wore a sapphire and diamond brooch from the Sixties.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Andrew Rannells chided, after someone complimented his navy shawl tuxedo by J. Crew. “They have a very nice formal line.”
“I’m excited to see all of the amazing gowns,” gushed singer Leona Lewis, who wore a dress by Tony Ward. Lewis said she hoped to kick up her heels later in the evening for St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ performance. “If my boyfriend can help me, I’ll swan around,” she said.
Director Eli Roth and his wife Lorenza Izzo also made it a date night, though they didn’t intend to coordinate. “I had no idea he was wearing green,” Izzo said. Added Roth, “When you’re married, you subconsciously start dressing the same. Even getting ready, we were wearing the same sweatpants and T-shirt.”
Just as the ceremony didn’t get too political, neither did the party. However, while President Trump recently reversed the transgender bathroom law, clearly, those rules didn’t apply at John’s affair. The women’s restrooms attracted a who’s who of LGBTQ advocates including Laverne Cox, Jenner and transgender model Andreja Pejic.
During the show, a collective silence fell over the room during the Best Picture snafu. “Wow! Thank f–k we didn’t have Warren Beatty do the auction,” quipped John.
Per tradition, a second wave of partygoers joined the festivities following the ceremony. Sting, fresh off his Oscar performance, was among them as was his wife Trudie Styler, Ricky Martin, Aisha Tyler and Aldis Hodge, the latter of whom shared what it was like watching the Best Picture moment unfold in person.
“It was intense,” admitted Hodge, whose film “Hidden Figures” was also up for Best Picture. “It was like experiencing a heart attack.”