×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Aretha Franklin, Bill Clinton, Alec Baldwin Light Up Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala

Elton John rarely does anything by half, and the 25th annual gala for the AIDS Foundation that bears his name was certainly no exception. While the event, held at New York’s majestic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, featured a monumentally star-studded guest list, speeches from former President Bill Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Alec Baldwin (who slipped in a brief Trump impersonation), host Neil Patrick Harris and John himself, and was capped by an intimate performance from none other than Aretha Franklin, its most memorable moment came from the mother of Ryan White, the teenager whose death in 1990 led directly to the creation of the foundation. The event raised more than $4.3 million.

Harris spoke of the $385 million the Foundation has raised to date, and the $10 million it has awarded this year — “That’s like a Fox News settlement.”

Alec Baldwin and Alexander GilkesElton John Aids Foundation Fall Gala, Inside, New York, USA - 07 Nov 2017

White’s mother Jeanne recalled in a tearful speech how John, her “guardian angel,” reached out to assist the grief-stricken family in every way he could. “Media requests, flowers, all were taken care of by Elton — he was quite the secretary,” she laughed. “Losing a child is the worst pain a mother can go through, but what helped was having a cause — Ryan’s cause. I knew I had to keep speaking out because it was what Ryan would have wanted me to do. and it has been such an tremendous comfort to me to have Elton speaking out as well. I am overwhelmed by what Elton and this Foundation have accomplished over the past 25 years — I don’t have enough words to tell you how much it means to me to be here to pay tribute to what he has done for Ryan and for all people who have been touched by this terrible epidemic.”

John responded with a tearful speech of his own. “I am so deeply touched by [White’s] words, and it brought so many memories back to me of a time in my life where I didn’t like myself very much. But when I was there in Indianapolis for the last week of Ryan’s life, I had an epiphany. … I had lost touch with my soul, I had lost all sense of pride, but here was a beautiful family who had gone through such awful traumatic things. What the White family did was to light a candle in my soul. Six months after Ryan passed away I got help and I became sober. [Ryan’s family] gave me my life back, and I determined that when I got sober I was gonna try and do something good with my life instead of wasting it.”

Elton John attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New YorkElton John AIDS Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala, New York, USA - 07 Nov 2017

He then thanked his husband David Furnish, who is chairman of the Foundation. “When I got sober I never thought I’d have someone I’d be in a relationship with for 24 years, who I would marry and have two young children, being in a same-sex relationship — see how the world changes? It changes because we make it change, and if we want to make it change in the best way we can do that.”

He then made way to introduce “the greatest singer of all time,” Aretha Franklin. The legendary singer, very slim, was in fine voice as she delivered a nine-song set beginning with “I Knew You Were Waiting” (her duet with George Michael) and including a deft take on “Say a Little Prayer,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and closing with “Freeway.” The Queen was, as ever, accompanied by fur coats (two on this evening). Earlier performances included Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell and a stunningly-sung version of John’s “Can You Feel the Love” from Heather Headley.

The event’s head-spinning guest list included Sting and wife Trudie Styler, Billy Joel and wife Alexa, Clive Davis, Maxwell, Sheryl Crow, Ethan Hawke, Keke Palmer, Diane Lane, Billie Jean King, Glenn Close, John Waters, Michael Ovitz, Aileen Getty Susan Lucci, Toni Collette, Sandra Lee, Denise Rich, Chayenne Jackson, Marina Abramović, Donna Karan, Padma Lakshmi, Matt Lauer, Judith Light, Sting and Trudie Styler, Bernie Taupin, Julie Taymor and Paddle8 founder Alexander Gilkes as a distinguished auctioneer.

Bill Clinton attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New YorkElton John AIDS Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala, New York, USA - 07 Nov 2017

More Music

  • Allan Rich Diane Warren

    Diane Warren, Allan Rich Join HMMA Advisory Board and Voting Academy

    The Hollywood Music in Media Awards has inducted songwriters Diane Warren and Allan Rich into the HMMA advisory board and voting academy. The pair will join an already diverse group of entertainment professionals that includes music artists and producers Verdine White, Dave Mason, Nile Rodgers and Adam Gaynor as well as award-winning film composers John [...]

  • The Lonely Island Are Comically Plausible

    Concert Review: The Lonely Island Are Comically Plausible Pop-Rappers on First Tour

    A funny thing happened on the way to the Lonely Island’s first-ever, multi-city tour, which kicked off at Bonnaroo this past weekend. At their third stop Wednesday at the Met Philadelphia, the hip-hop comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone proved they could parody rap-pop with comic plausibility and their own brand of musical [...]

  • Livenation AR Live stream

    Live Nation to Debut AR Live Stream at Music Midtown Festival

    Come September, Live Nation is set to begin streaming live events in augmented reality. The entertainment giant will debut live AR broadcasting at the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, Georgia, where attendees will also be able to unlock filters and other AR effects. Live Nation announced the new initiative at the Cannes Lions festival Thursday, [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Frank Ocean

    What Happened to the Black Queer Music Revolution That Frank Ocean Almost Started?

    Seven years ago, Frank Ocean got us talking about a revolution — or at least hoping for one. On the eve of releasing “Channel Orange,” his groundbreaking 2012 debut studio album, the then-24-year-old alt-R&B singer-songwriter wrote an open letter on his Tumblr blog in which he revealed that his first love had been a man. [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content