It’s not easy to quiet a room of over 300 people—especially when that room includes the likes of Piers Morgan, Bette Midler, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, and Emma Thompson. But on Saturday night, at the Sean Penn & Friends Help Haiti Home Gala sponsored by Giorgio Armani, when Anaelle Jean-Pierre, a 20-year-old Haitian and earthquake survivor stepped slowly onto the stage singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in a crystal clear a cappella voice, the ballroom at the Montage Beverly Hills was brought to silence. Elsa Pataky leaned in closer to husband Chris Hemsworth. At every table, guests sat, agape, with tears collecting in their eyes, wholly moved by the young woman on the stage. Gradually, Bono and a guitar-playing the Edge emerged from backstage, joining Jean-Pierre in the simple, poignant rendition, to the eventual applause of 300 people who rose to their feet clapping (and crying). “Amazing,” said Charlize Theron, standing in the hall outside after the performance. “Oh my gosh,” said Allison Williams, considering the song later in the evening. “I know a lot of the facts about this crisis, but her performance really gave them an emotional side.” The song was the undeniable highlight in an evening not short of them—from U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela A. White’s impassioned and hilarious update of the progress made thanks to Penn’s organization J/P Haitian Relief Organization, to director Samuel Bayer’s moving portraits and documentary of life in the tent camps, to Hillary Clinton’s cameo (by video), and Chris Martin and Theron’s heated bidding war for a Banksy original (created just a few days prior to the event). That face-off was then dramatically topped by Piers Morgan and master of ceremonies Anderson Cooper (the latter egged on by Gwyneth Paltrow), duking it out through the auctioneer for a commissioned work by Jeff Koons composed of Sean Penn’s decommissioned firearms (formerly a gun collector, violence in America and in Haiti prompted Penn to repurpose his 67-piece gun collection, “to surrender cowardice and build beauty”). There was much to celebrate—since its creation, J/P HRO has relocated 60,000 people from camps into housing—but there’s still more work to be done—and guests pledged to fund home construction, prenatal care, community development, and relocation initiatives. The evening ended with a performance by U2—the band’s first together in four years. Adam Scott, a huge U2 fan, was especially thrilled. “I have a podcast coming out around their next album,” he said, no irony involved. “It’s called ‘You Talkin U2 Me?’ ”
Meanwhile, across town, Linda Perry orchestrated an equally moving evening of music and charity at the 7th Annual Art of Elysium Heaven Gala at the Skirball Cultural Center. As the visionary for the evening, the incomparable rock musician, songwriter, and producer was charged with creating her version of “heaven on earth,” which in this case consisted of handmade natural wood tables and chairs inside the new massive 9,000-square-foot Guerin Pavilion, filled with light and a view of trees and greenery through the all-glass back wall.
“Oh, lovely,” sighed Anna Kendrick as she entered the pavilion, where a large white fabric horn serving as an enormous speaker hung from the arched ceiling, and guests including Camilla Belle, Topher Grace, Elijah Wood, and Amy Smart were treated to a vegan dinner, courtesy of Perry’s brother, an Oregon-based chef, and a Marc Jacobs runway fashion show. The evening, which raised money to fund the charity’s mission of bringing artists, musicians, actors, and designers into hospitals to work with children battling serious medical conditions, came to a comedic halt when Perry suddenly spotted Johnny Deppseated beside Amber Heard and inadvertently let out one of the many four-letter words for which she is known. After regrouping, she explained she had dressed as Depp for Halloween. “If you want to exchange e-mails, I’ll show you the picture because I swear . . . I looked like you,” said the slightly starstruck leather bell-bottom-clad Perry before introducing the highlight of the evening: a series of captivating and beautiful musical performances. First came a recording of a communal Om incantation Perry made of friends, family, doctors, and children in the hospital, played on functional records that were built as simple centerpieces into the custom tables turned turntable art pieces, which were later auctioned off to the guests. “I want one for myself and one for the hospital for the kids,” said Kelly Osbourne, vowing to purchase two. Next up was a performance by the duo the Smokin Knights, with a song they wrote for one of the young hospital patients, followed by moving performances from the Section Quartet, Rain Phoenix, and then Evan Rachel Wood, who brought the crowd—including Justin Bartha, his pregnant new wife, Lia Smith, Kate Bosworth, and Michael Polish—to their feet. Perry took the stage for a song, accompanied by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir, before she brought some of the children who work with the charity to join her for a tear-jerking rendition of her hit song “Beautiful.” A performance by Steven Tyler rounded out the evening that also honored Ali Larter and her husband Hayes MacArthur with the Spirit of Elysium Award for their years of volunteer service. Looking around the room at artist Shepard Fairey, painter and musician Mark Mothersbaugh, artist Dave Greco, and actors Jamie Bell, and Busy Philipps, Jennifer Howell, the founder of the Art of Elysium, summed up the evening thusly: “We are a family of artists, who all believe in the healing power of art.”