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Whether it was an after-hours trip to the museum or the scores of very funny people in the audience — care of co-chair Lorne Michaels’ Rolodex — the prevailing mood at the American Museum of Natural History’s annual gala on Thursday night was a near-childlike glee. Maybe it was the glow sticks.

“I have to remind the audience to not only break the glow sticks but shake them at the same time,” instructed emcee Tom Brokaw to a room that included Meg Ryan, Steve Martin, Anne Hathaway and a large swath of the current “Saturday Night Live” lineup.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I think, Tom, that they have to be reminded they’re not suppositories,” joked auctioneer Jamie Niven, on loan from Sotheby’s for the evening. Niven had a vested interest in the wands’ proper usage, as they had taken the place of auction paddles in the museum’s dimly lit Hall of Ocean Life.

“I’m honored to be here on such a special occasion in such an amazingly cool place,” said Jimmy Fallon before presenting the night’s entertainment, a performance by Elton John. “I mean, it’s just awesome to walk around, look at all the dinosaurs and fossils…and watch them donate their money to the museum. It’s just really inspiring.”

Even Sir Elton couldn’t shake the overwhelming sense of place.

“Thank you very much,” he said taking the stage to applause. “I’ve never played a natural history museum before, and I feel quite at home.”

John pushed the level of abandon in the room to its breaking point as guests swayed along to a mini set that included “Rocket Man” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” By the time he reached “Tiny Dancer,” the glow sticks were back out.

“This is for you, Jimmy,” John said to Fallon as he launched into “Benny and the Jets.” The comedian, never one to contain his boyish exuberance, pumped his fist right along.

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