The Elton John AIDS Foundation raised $3.9 million Monday night at its 2018 annual New York Fall Gala to support HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, supporting services, and advocacy programs. Sheryl Crow performed a 45-minute set, “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King hosted, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson gave a moving speech about meeting Rosa Parks, an original Tony Bennett painting went for nearly $200,000, and a photograph of Aretha Franklin performing at last year’s EJAF benefit — which ended up being her final public performance before her death from cancer in August — was sold for $100,000. John spoke of her strength that night in the face of her illness, recalling her saying to him before she went on, “I couldn’t let you down.”
“I honestly didn’t know how she could possibly perform in the physical condition I saw her in,” he continued. “And she raised the roof. I think it’s because she was inspired by being in the cathedral: She went to church, she went back to where she came from and she made us all weep. She gave us the performance of a lifetime.”
Attendees included Bennett, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Donna Karan, Michael Stipe, Connie Britton, Iman, Chris Hardwick, Marina Abramovic and Bernie Taupin.
American Airlines, BVLGARI, Robert K. Kraft, the Leonard and Judy Lauder Fund, and Patricia Hearst were presenting sponsors of the benefit.
Elton John thanked the gala’s attendees, saying, “Your generosity enables us to support organizations responding to HIV/AIDS in communities where help is most needed. These organizations reach people who are often forgotten or overlooked—and treat them with the dignity, respect, and compassion they deserve.”
“We are profoundly grateful and deeply humbled to have the support of our incredible partners,” said Chairman David Furnish. “Their generosity allows us to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS.”
As part of the evening’s program, EJAF recognized the contributions of three people, presenting each of them with the Foundation’s Enduring Vision Award, which was donated and designed by Bvlgari in collaboration with London-based designer duo Campbell-Rey:
*Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation — one of the world’s largest philanthropies — was lauded as a leader in addressing the inequality that impacts people across the world, including those affected by HIV/AIDS. EJAF also recognized the critical support and ongoing partnership of the Ford Foundation.
*Patricia Hearst was honored for her long-term support of EJAF’s mission.
*Joe McMillan, chairman and CEO of DDG, was recognized for donating his time, talent, and resources as part of his commitment to the Foundation’s cause.
During the evening, guest auctioneer Alexander Berggruen of Christie’s conducted a live auction featuring such items as the Bvlgari Serpenti Seduttori necklace, Chris Levine’s lightbox artwork of Her Majesty the Queen entitled “Equanimity,” photographs of Billie Jean King from the recent Adidas ads along with seats at her US Open suite, a David LaChappelle photograph of Elton John called “Honky Cat” from the artwork for the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, a photograph by Greg Gorman of Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett’s watercolor painting of the French Academy in Rome, Andy Warhol’s stitched photograph of metal chairs donated from the personal collection of art world luminaries Shelly and Vincent Fremont, and a series of 12 prints by Bernie Taupin created to recognize his 50 year collaboration with Elton John, each print having been signed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.