LOS ANGELES — While Hollywood reeled over the Will Smith-Chris Rock controversy at the Dolby Theatre, the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscars viewing party, just a few miles away, raised money rather than hackles.
The 30th annual bash raised $8.6 million Sunday and attracted a bevy of A-list celebrities, as Lady Gaga, Billy Porter, and Eric McCormack co-hosted the event with David Furnish, John’s husband and chairman of the foundation.
Me n’ my co-hosts for the #EJAFOscars! #DavidFurnish, @ladygaga & @theebillyporter @ejaf pic.twitter.com/WnD0KLSS2X— Eric McCormack (@EricMcCormack) March 28, 2022
Sparkly guest list aside, a couple of regulars did not attend, most notably the fete’s namesake, who was performing in the Midwest, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, one of the event’s primary sponsors.
For years, Kraft, 80, has attended the star-studded fundraiser — including pre-pandemic with Dana Blumberg, to whom he is reportedly engaged. A Patriots spokesperson said that Kraft was at the annual NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., which kicked off on Sunday and ends on Wednesday.
Even though John couldn’t be there, he was linked remotely from his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, so he could thank guests for attending and they, in turn, could see him perform two songs.
Guests were treated to additional songs by John, courtesy of Brandi Carlile, who sang “Border Song” and “Rocket Man” (a duet with Jake Wesley Rogers).
Carlile, who was married in Wareham, Mass., in 2012, called playing at the event “perhaps one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done.” The six-time Grammy winner said she has been an Elton John fan since she was 12. “She is obsessed with him,” noted her wife, Catherine Shepherd, who joined Carlile on the red carpet before the party.
When asked if she was disappointed that John was not in attendance, Carlile said she was “so [expletive] relieved.”
“I mean, how would you feel playing a rock ‘n’ roll concert before Elton John?” she quipped.
Among the celebrities at the event, held under tents in West Hollywood Park, were Zooey Deschanel, Demi Lovato, Andrew Rannells, sisters Patricia and Rosanna Arquette, and Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan from “This is Us.”
Furnish and John’s two sons — Zachary, 11, and Elijah, 9 — were also at the event and accompanied Lady Gaga, their godmother, on the red carpet.
”It was an especially unforgettable and emotional evening with our sons in attendance for the first time,” Furnish said. “They made their fathers extremely proud representing our family at the Foundation’s most important night of the year.”