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CAUSE CÉLÈBRE

Elton John's Oscar party raises nearly $4 million

February 24, 2009|TINA DAUNT

A good Hollywood party these days combines certain indispensable elements: a beautiful room filled with beautiful people, good food and drink, efficient valet parking -- and a cause.

At this year's Oscar parties, the cause element was especially important. (Oscar host Hugh Jackman wasn't the only entertainer who noticed that Oscar was throwing a glittering bash in hard times.)

But that didn't mean forgoing glitz.

Like everybody else on the planet who can't make it to the Kodak Theatre, celebs and politically active members of the industry community like to get together and watch the Oscars. But forget the nachos.

At Elton John's glittering event to raise money and awareness for his AIDS foundation, the aperitif of choice was a Godiva chocolate martini. And if that wasn't enough, a phalanx of nattily clad servers passed trays of chocolate bonbons.

(Judging by the size of the dresses, it didn't appear to be a crowd that regularly indulges. But, hey, it was Oscar night. Even model Elle Macpherson was nibbling on a sweet while holding a conversation with the hyper-critical Simon Cowell.)

Victoria Beckham (is she or is she not moving to Milan?) was seen entering a definitely non-green SUV. Also among the A-list attendees in a giant tent at the Pacific Design Center were Carrie Underwood, Chris Noth, Eva Longoria Parker, Kiefer Sutherland, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson and Taye Diggs.

By the end of the night, nearly $4 million had been raised. Elton John, in a show of gratitude, sang a couple of songs with the featured singer of the evening, Raphael Saadiq.

For foster kids

A bit west of the Elton John shindig, at the Beverly Hilton, activist Daphna Ziman was using everyone's fascination with Hollywood's big night as a way to raise money for foster children. Ziman has thrown her party for the last decade and says that the need never has been greater.

"There are so many more children coming into the system because single moms are losing their jobs and have nowhere to go," Ziman said.

The guests included an eclectic mix of industry figures, politicians and celebrities, including actress Deborah Raffin, state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Entertainment was provided by Akon, Sophie B. Hawkins, Sirak Baloyan and others.

To raise money for Ziman's foundation, Children Uniting Nations, a large colorful mural by artist David Russo (with assistance from 1,500 foster children who pressed their paint-dipped hands onto the surface of an 8-by-20-foot board) was displayed in the hotel lobby. It will be auctioned off via the Internet in the coming weeks.

For sick kids

Meanwhile, Olivia Newton-John, Leeza Gibbons and David Foster sponsored an Oscar-watching event called "A Night to Make a Difference" in a tented area off Mr. Chow restaurant in Beverly Hills.

"In a night when we are honoring emotions, we wanted to honor celebrities who lead by example," said Gibbons.

Among those recognized for their efforts -- mostly raising money for sick children -- were Laila Ali and Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, Rodney Peete.

"With the recession, we really need more philanthropic focus," Robinson Peete said.

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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