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Into the Night

Fund-Raiser Aims to Put Art Within Children's Reach

September 25, 2002|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Slash, former guitarist with Guns N' Roses, stood on the rooftop of the Louis Vuitton shop in Beverly Hills on Monday night and let loose with a rocking rendition of the "The Star-Spangled Banner." He then tossed his pick down to a well-heeled and well-dressed crowd of 1,200 whose members forked over $1,000 per ticket to the fifth annual "Jaguar's Tribute to Style on Rodeo Drive" fund-raiser.

Before the evening event ended, with songs from Pauletta Washington, wife of Denzel, Charles Veal Jr. and "American Idol's" Kelly Clarkson, more than $750,000 (including $120,000 from a lively auction) had been raised for the Entertainment Industry Foundation's newly formed National Arts Education Initiative that will support five Los Angeles area inner-city arts groups.

"Honey, L.A. doesn't need a football team. We need a dance academy. Tonight, it's all about the children and the arts," said choreographer Debbie Allen as she kicked off the night's entertainment with dance as the centerpiece. Allen's dance academy troupe as well as the New York-based Complexion ensemble performed to standing ovations.

Guests gathered around long white tables set up by caterer Along Came Mary for a Tuscan feast.

Between bites, when they weren't chatting on cell phones, comparing cell phones or borrowing cell phones, the guests listened to operatic selections such as "Carmen" and "La Boheme" playing in the background.

Throughout the night, the crowd mixed and mingled along fashionable Rodeo, closed between Dayton and Brighton ways, as participants sipped wine, window-shopped and viewed "Objets d'art," a 30-piece collection of one-of-a-kind evening gowns from Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior and Badgley Mischka, jewelry totaling more than 300 carats, vintage and historical items dating to the 1850s and five pairs of shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe in the late 1950s. The items will be displayed at stores on Rodeo for the next two weeks.

As guests partied--women dressed in everything from sequined cocktail dresses to blue jeans, stilettos and the latest Tod's bag; men in dark business suits and everyone wearing a sleek Swatch watch that served as the ticket for admittance--tourists gathered along barricades snapping photographs of arriving and strolling celebrity guests Angela Bassett, Lisa Kudrow, Kelsey Grammer, Macy Gray, John Ritter, Jackie Collins, Marilu Henner and Jane Leeves, among others. "I'm glad to be here tonight to support the cause," said Ritter, who attended the Emmys at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday evening and earlier Monday rehearsed for his new sitcom. "But I'm more glad to be here when Rodeo Drive is shut down because I've always said that Rodeo Drive has to be shut down," he cracked.

Grammer, one of the evening's several celebrity co-hosts, joked about the pronunciation of the word jaguar. "Ja-gu-aaar. Ja-guuu-ar," he repeated and then gave up.

"It's really about the children who have a natural relationship to the arts," he said about the night's purpose and message. "Unfortunately, a lot of kids today have never been to a play or a museum, so tonight we are here to ensure that they will."

The evening's beneficiaries included InnerSpark/California State Summer School for the Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, P.S. Arts, Shakespeare Festival/L.A., and Teach for America.

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