No one can say Sir Elton John isn’t dedicated to his Elton John AIDS Foundation and that organization’s annual Academy Awards viewing party. The rock legend had to skip out on the early part of his gala this year, for a very good reason: He was nominated for Best Original Song, for his Rocketman theme “(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again.” But as soon as he and his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin won the Oscar, he hightailed it over from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre — with a police escort — to West Hollywood Park to take over party-hosting duties for the rest of the evening, before the Oscars ceremony was even over. (The Fab Five cast from Netflix’s Queer Eye held down the fort in the interim.)
Once Elton arrived, a live charity auction conducted by Alexander Gilkes commenced, and once again, John showed his devotion. First, he purchased one of the items, a specially commissioned artwork by renowned artist Nathaniel Mary Quinn, for himself. Then, in an effort to bump up the auction price for the white Yamaha grand piano featured in Rocketman during “Bennie and the Jets,” he sat at the keyboard and actually began taking requests from each of the bidders, playing snippets of “Bennie,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Daniel,” “Your Song,” and other hits until the piano — which had been shrink-wrapped and shipped to Los Angeles just for the occasion — eventually fetched a whopping $220,000.
Another tradition of John’s viewing party is a post-awards concert by a rising new musical talent, curated by Elton himself. (Past performers have included Scissor Sisters, Raphael Saadiq, Ryan Adams, Emeli Sandé, and Greta Van Fleet). This year, John handpicked British singer-songwriter and BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice winner Sam Fender, who admitted that he and his bandmates were “s***ing themselves” over Elton’s invitation. But they maintained their composure like consummate professionals, even when John actually joined them onstage. (Elton graciously lent his vocals to their original song, “Will We Talk?,” instead of singing one of his own compositions.) And Fender definitely won over the Hollywood crowd with his finale, a faithful cover of “Dancing in the Dark” by another one of his classic rock idols, Bruce Springsteen.
The 28th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards viewing party, which was attended by such celebrities as Beck, J.C. Chasez, Vivica A. Fox, Christina Hendricks, Derek Hough, Caitlyn Jenner, Heidi Klum, Diane Lane, Leona Lewis, Judith Light, Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, Billy Porter, Aly Raisman, Christina Ricci, Smokey Robinson, Nile Rodgers, Jane Seymour, Troye Sivan, Teyana Taylor, Bella Thorne, Donatella Versace, Dita Von Teese, Andrew Watt, Mary Wilson, and Billy Zane, raised a total of $6.4 million. (Another top-dollar item was two VIP tickets to the Versace Cruise Collection fashion show in a secret location, which was auctioned off by Sharon Stone and was so popular with partygoers that she sold the lot twice.) The funds raised at Sunday’s event will help provide treatment, testing, care, and support across four continents to people living with or at risk of contracting HIV.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: