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Scene & Heard: A slice of 'Heaven' for the Art of Elysium

The organization that helps seriously ill children draws Eva Mendes, Gerard Butler, Kirsten Dunst, 50 Cent and other stars to its benefit.

January 23, 2011|By Ellen Olivier | Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Actor James Franco and Art of Elysium participant Anna attend the 2011 Art of Elysium "Heaven" gala at the California Science Center on Jan. 15.
Actor James Franco and Art of Elysium participant Anna attend the 2011 Art… (Jason Merritt, Getty Images…)

The Art of Elysium's "Heaven" is one of the year's most popular draws for young Hollywood's A-list. And they do more than merely walk the red carpet for the cause — which is to encourage working actors, artists and musicians to volunteer to help children who are seriously ill. Many who participate become charity ambassadors, doling out good cheer to the patients, sharing creative pursuits with them and providing a welcome break from the routine of hospital life.

Ryan Kavanaugh, chief executive of Relativity Media, said he sings to the children. Eva Mendes said she likes to play a game called Create Your Fairy Tale. Those who recognize the celebrities may be surprised at their presence, but, often, Mendes said, "they don't know."

Kavanaugh, Vogue senior West Coast editor Lisa Love and Microsoft's Shawn Sanford co-chaired the Jan. 15 gala, which attracted 500 guests, including Mendes, Gerard Butler, Kirsten Dunst, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel Bilson, Anna Kendrick, Rashida Jones, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Elijah Wood, Leighton Meester, Amy Smart, Topher Grace, Curtis " 50 Cent" Jackson, Brittany Snow, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Witt, Busy Philipps, Bonnie Somerville, Amber Heard and Kelly Osbourne. James Franco received this year's Spirit of Elysium Award.

Artist and musician Mark Mothersbaugh was chosen as the night's visionary. He brought this year's "Heaven" to life as "the future" at the California Science Center. "I think of heaven as the place everyone wants to be," he said. "Despite being in a band based on de-evolution [Devo], my feelings have always been very optimistic about where things are going in the world."

For his futuristic vision, Mothersbaugh replaced traditional flowers with neon centerpieces and projected colorful, comic book-style images onto the walls. Guests sat at tables spanning the length of the cavernous room, some long enough to accommodate 80 people.

Charity founder Jennifer Howell said actors, musicians, artists, writers and fashion designers visited five hospitals in New York and 15 in Los Angeles last year, serving nearly 40,000 children. With tickets selling for $10,000 a pair, plus audience contributions, net proceeds topped $1.2 million.

Shopping for a cause

Nancy Moonves, whose resume includes entries for actress and producer, opened her Brentwood home Jan. 15 for an evening of cocktails and guilt-free "ethical shopping." Handmade glass-beaded bracelets and necklaces were on sale, with all proceeds going to Same Sky, a trade initiative to benefit the jewelry-makers: women in Rwanda living with AIDs.

Company founder Francine LeFrak explained that as a movie producer, she spent more than eight years working on a film — which never materialized — about the Rwandan genocide. "I had to put all that energy somewhere," she said, and so she took the path of social entrepreneurship.

"I believe in the trade model, not the aid model," she said. "In order to give people dignity, you have to give them a real job. The changes I've seen in the women have been remarkable — a wow — a complete wow."

Nearly 100 people showed up to shop, including Buzz Aldrin and his wife, Lois; Motown composer Lamont Dozier and his wife, Barbara; Frances Fisher and her daughter Francesca Eastwood; and Geraldine James, Linda Hart and Margie Mercer.

Science superstar

Before delivering his lecture, "My Brief History," to an overflow crowd at Caltech, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking joined friends of the school's Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy for a private dinner on campus.

Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau explained that Hawking's Jan. 18 lecture didn't just fill the auditorium. So many people wanted to hear Hawking — who speaks through a computer because he has a form of muscular dystrophy — that there would also be a video transmission into a second auditorium. For all those camped out on the grass, there would be outdoor televisions.

"He's the rock star of science," said Chameau. Hawking is known for his breakthrough theories in areas such as black holes in space and the origin of the universe.

During the reception, Kip Thorne introduced dinner guests to the scientist. A noted astrophysicist himself, Thorne is known for his expertise in Einstein's theory of relativity.

Division Chair B. Thomas Soifer and John Preskill, founding director of Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information, then addressed the group, which included past presidents of the Caltech Associates, Elizabeth Tito and Fred Blum; Chameau's wife, Carol Carmichael; Thorne's wife, Carolee Winstein; Yorgos Stylianos, Sheridan Mitchell Lorenz, Lynn De Logi and Joyce and Fred Hameetman.

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