The singer-songwriter brought her vision to life on Saturday at The Art of Elysium’s seventh annual Heaven gala at the Skirball. The Art of Elysium, which enlists artists to help critically ill children find their own creative voices through art, music, fashion and theater, chooses a different celebrity to organize this fundraiser each year.
“I am so honored every year to select a visionary and to go through the process of watching them build heaven; it is quite extraordinary,” The AoE founder Jennifer Howell said. “There is Mark Mothersbaugh, Shepard Fairey, Cameron Silver … To watch these extraordinary minds think about what heaven means to them is really what life’s all about and it is what we should all be trying to do, is to think how we can build heaven on earth every day.”
When Perry took a break from micro-managing to accept her visionary award onstage, she was starstuck by a heavenly figure.
“Holy f**k, I just saw Johnny Depp,” she said, stopping mid-sentence. Depp brought along g.f. Amber Heard. “I’m sorry; that never happens to me. I’m so sorry. I’m very embarrassed, but not, because I am humble.”
She was so thrown off by the celebrity sighting that Perry exited the stage, forgetting to announce “the main f**king thing.” She returned, but before playing the psalms she had recorded, she digressed once again to address her celebrity doppelganger.
“I dressed as your character in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ for Halloween,” she confessed. “If you want to exchange emails, I’ll show you the picture because I swear to f**kin’ god, I look like you. I’m not lying. I looked like Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. I had to take a second look and go ‘That’s not him, that’s me.’”
The rock ‘n’ roll Earth Mother directed everyone’s attention to the center of their custom-made wooden tables with built-in record players. Everyone dropped the needle to play the music Perry had recorded.
“These are kids, these are families, these are doctors, these are nurses, these are friends,” she said. “Listen. Listen. Sit into yourselves for a little bit. It’s not all about you. It’s not about you right now.”
The minimalistic, rustic décor included branch centerpieces with flower buds and a stage adorned with nothing but trees and a white piano.
“I feel like we all just joined the same cult,” Hayes MacArthur said as soon as he stepped onstage with wife Ali Larter to collect their Spirit of Elysium statue.
The comedian continued to crack jokes by thanking the celebrities in attendance, who were “dressed in (their) second best outfits for the weekend.”
“Ali and I are so thankful for everyone being here tonight and to receive this award,” he said. “Mostly because it’s the only award given out on Golden Globes weekend that can’t be bought.”
No one was off limits in the stand-up routine, not even The Art of Elysium event organizers.
“Last year we raised a ton of money,” he said. “Most of it went to the living plant invitations that you all received, which I didn’t know we’d be eating tonight as well. They really are better at caring and nurturing children than they are at mailing botany.”
But the most touching moments of the night came during the concert portion, which included a surprise performance from Tyler and numbers from Perry, Evan Rachel Wood and children from the organization (they sang “Beautiful” — the ballad Perry wrote for Christina Aguilera).
Perry tried to cajole AoE’s national program director, Allison Beck, to improvise a song. “Get out of your own ego and focus on me,” she told a frightened Beck. It didn’t work. “Well, maybe your dress is too tight,” Perry later said to account for the failed mission. At least it was entertaining to watch.