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LOS ANGELES Like other parties hoping to reclaim exclusivity, the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party got smaller on its 15th birthday. What used to be a viewing dinner followed by an after-party that swelled to 1,000 guests was this year limited to just over 600 for an expanded dinner, with no additional guests welcome to attend the after-party alone. The result? A more coveted ticket to the sold-out event at the Pacific Design Center—which raised the most money in the party’s history, and indeed had a far richer and more civilized atmosphere.
John and foundation director Scott Campbell headed up the event, working with producer Virginia Fout and New York-based designer Antony Todd, who took over for past designer Ben Bourgeois. The round tent that had become an event signature was instead roughly a square this year, filled with sumptuous metallic decor, including pewter-colored carpeting and chair covers with gold, pineapple-esque shapes painted on their backs. Gold-rimmed glassware and silver vases holding simple white flowers topped the tables, and giant urns coated in a faux-old patina around the perimeter contained lush green foliage, with nary a flower. Mirrored tabletops allowed guests to examine the results of the time they—or someone else—had spent preparing their hair and makeup, and flat-screen TVs throughout the space showed the telecast.
Chef Renato Piccolotto of the Cipriani Hotel in Venice, Italy, together with Wayne Elias of Crumble Catering and Mark's Restaurant in Los Angeles, put together a four-course dinner menu with an Italian bent. It started with a seasonal salad with asparagus tips, candied tomato, and goat cheese, followed by risotto with seasonal vegetables. The entrée was filet of sole with potato green-apple puree, or sautéed filet mignon with red port and madeira wine sauce. Creamy bitter chocolate with saffron sauce rounded out dessert.
After dinner, a live auction contributed to the $4.2 million raised by the event. Big-ticket items included a private soccer lesson with David Beckham and a lot called by seasoned auctioneer Sharon Stone in which two guests each bid $250,000 for a package that included tickets to John’s upcoming 60th birthday party. One part of the formula that didn’t change was the post-dinner concert given by John and a guest artist—this year, James Blunt.
As glamorous as it may be, the event is hosted by a nonprofit, and the budget was an issue. “The biggest challenge for the sound on this event is to get the guest musical artist management team and sound crew to understand that we are not going to be able to provide them everything they request on their tour rider,” said Trace Goodman of Goodman Audio, who handled the sound. “We have to make them realize that in order to pull off this kind of event, we have to make cuts and changes.”
Photos: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.com