David Furnish Talks This Year’s Elton John Oscar Party and the Rocket Man’s Retirement Plans
The music legend and his husband will host the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 26th annual viewing gala on Sunday in West Hollywood.
Elton John may be retiring from touring, but the music icon has no plans to stop working or continuing his charity work.
The legendary Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party the music legend hosts with his husband and EJAF chairman David Furnish will go on.
“Of course, we’ll still being doing it,” Furnish on Thursday told The Hollywood Reporter at the site of Sunday’s gala, a tent built in West Hollywood Park. “It’s paramount to all the planning we’re doing. We move things around for this party.”
John announced in late January that he will retire from the road in 2021 after a three-year tour that will kick off in September. “My priorities have changed,” the 70-year-old rocker said during an emotional press conference announcing his plans. “I have young children."
Furnish said he’s “really excited” about spending more time with his husband and their sons, Zachary, 7, and Elijah, 5. “But he’ll still be writing,” Furnish said. "We have a music management company where lots of new artists can benefit from more of Elton’s attention and guidance. He’s also working on several stage musical projects,” including a musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada.
But Furnish acknowledged that slowing down may come as a bit of a shock to John: “I think for a period of time it will be a welcomed and well-deserved rest, but then I think we’re going to have to be a little creative.”
As for this weekend’s festivities, Furnish say it’s hard to believe that Sunday will mark their 26th gala. It started as a dinner party at Maple Drive restaurant thrown by Patrick Lippert, a Hollywood political activist who died from AIDS just three months after the inaugural EJAF fundraiser. Since then, the event has gone on to raise more than $62 million for the foundation.
“I always kind of say when we walk out the door on Oscar night, ‘Elton, we should be break-dancing down the driveway because things in entertainment come and go very quickly, but we have a night that’s always sold out and gets bigger every year,’” Furnish said.
This year’s star-studded guest list includes Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Heidi Klum, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Tony Goldwyn, Colton Haynes, Olympian Gus Kenworthy, Billie Jean King, Steven Tyler, Busy Philipps, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Chris Colfer and directors Roland Emmerich and Spike Lee, among many others.
The party will get started with a cocktail reception at 4 p.m., followed by a five-course dinner designed by chef Joan Roca of the Michelin three-star restaurant El Celler de Van Roca in Girona, Spain. “We are bringing our cuisine and ideas and concepts from our restaurant but using as much local ingredients from California as we can,” Roca said. “We have found fantastic products from the region and we also find that, out of the whole U.S., California is probably most like the Mediterranean region.”
In conjunction with the gala’s presenting sponsor Bulgari, illusionist David Jarre will entertain the guests before the awards begin with a magic trick in which he places his Oscar predictions in a box suspended above the crowd. “No one will be able to touch it, and then we’ll open it after the show,” Jarre said, adding with a laugh, “I’m putting my reputation on the line here.” (Fun fact: Jarre is the son of English actress Charlotte Rampling and French composer Jean-Michael Jarre.)
The auction portion of the night will include a purple Lalique heart sculpture designed by John. The hand-crafted piece took 14 months to create. “It sat in a furnace for over two weeks just to be able to capture the color,” said Lalique president and CEO Maz Zouhairi. “Elton is a musical genius, but he is also a real artist. He really understands what he wants. He did a quick drawing and said, ‘This is what I want it to look like.’”
The auction will also include a set of 31 framed heart artworks designed by various celebrities, as well as a Tyler Ellis clutch and Perry Ellis bow-tie.
The night will close with a performance by rising band Greta Van Fleet.
Will John join them onstage?
Furnish said with a smile, “I will say this — Elton will be rehearsing with them on Saturday.”