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It may have be the film world’s biggest night, but music’s elite were also out in full force Sunday for one of the biggest and glitziest Oscar soirees in Hollywood: Sir Elton John’s 25th annual fundraiser for his Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, held at West Hollywood Park — just three blocks down the street from the Troubadour club, where John famously performed his first U.S. show in 1970.
The EJAF event offered some of the most rockin’ people-watching west of the Dolby Theatre, with a guest list that included a radiantly pregnant Ciara, Sting, Beck, Smokey Robinson, American Idol alumni Adam Lambert and Katharine McPhee, Laverne Cox, Russell Simmons, Scissor Sisters’ Jakes Shears, Quincy Jones, Rufus Wainwright, Big Sean, Ryan Adams, Heidi Klum, Ruby Rose, Wale, Ashley Tisdale, Leona Lewis, Caitlyn Jenner, Pentatonix’s Kirstin Maldonado, Jhene Aiko, Sharon Stone, Voice winner Alisan Porter, Earth, Wind & Fire legend Verdine White, Vanessa Hudgens, Ricky Martin, and ex-Glee stars Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Matthew Morrison, and Kevin McHale. But the Alabama soul combo St. Paul & the Broken Bones, whom John introduced as one of his favorite bands, practically stole the show with its fiery private performance, the highlight of which was a surprise duet with Captain Fantastic himself.
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Elton — who in a statement said he was “absolutely delighted to welcome St. Paul & the Broken Bones to EJAF’s Academy Awards Viewing Party; they are just amazing, fantastic musicians, and I know our guests will be thrilled by their performance” — joined the band onstage for the gender-bending song “I’ll Be Your Woman,” trading passionate vocals with ex-preacher-trainee-turned-frontman Paul Janeway. “You can’t beat that s***,” Janeway grinningly remarked afterwards. “You can’t beat that.”
The other main attraction of the night was the live auction benefiting John’s foundation; items for sale included a five-night stay at Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler’s private Maui vacation home, an invitation to a special party at L.A.’s Hammer Museum celebrating John’s 70th birthday and 50-year songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin, and archival pigment prints of legendary photographer Norman Seeff’s portraits of Carly Simon, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Patti Smith (pictured below). The auction — which took place immediately after the Oscar telecast, in which Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway cringe-inducingly accidentally announced that La La Land, not actual winner Moonlight, had won Best Picture — was cheekily introduced with John quipping, “Wow, I’m glad we didn’t have Warren Beatty do the live auction!”
John threw his first Oscar viewing party in 1993, and over the years it has become one of the hottest Academy Awards events in town. In ’93, the party raised $300,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation; this year’s soiree raised a whopping $7 million for the global effort to end AIDS.