Sir Richard Branson Rocked the Kasbah Wednesday night in Los Angeles, and the Clash were nowhere in sight.
In the heart of Hollywood at multi-purpose venue (and sometimes nightclub) Boulevard 3, Branson, his mother Eve, Mary J Blige, will.i.am, Geena Davis, Paris Hilton, Natalie Imbruglia, the Pussycat Dolls and a few offspring from the Saudi Royal Family all attended a charity dinner (dubbed “Rock The Kasbah”) for Branson’s Virgin Unite charity.
Blige’s set was the highlight of the fifth annual event and her 4-song set, which included her cover of U2’s “One,” brought the crowd to its feet at the end of the dinner. Imbruglia, a longtime supporter of Branson’s charity endeavors, took to the stage to dance next to the R&B singer at one point.
But the evening was not just about watching entertainers (O.A.R. and the Pussycat Dolls also performed). The primary goal of the dinner was to raise money for children in Morocco, where the Branson family owns property, naturally.
“People are hurting,” said actor Kevin Connolly at one point from the stage as he struggled to get those in attendance to adopt a more serious tone. Everyone seemed to be having too good of a time, including Branson himself, who turned into a jovial fundraising machine at the end of the evening from the same stage.
After several items were auctioned off, including a stay in Napa, the business magnate told a story of how swimming with whale sharks in Mexico recently was one of the most special experiences of his life (the Englishman also detailed how he accidentally swam into the mouth of one of the massive mammals).
But the real whale was Branson himself, who stood sheepishly next to the auctioneer during the live auction when the real money started to fly.
Six people each bid $60,000 a piece to swim with the whales (and Branson himself) in Mexico next year. The businessman, never missing a chance to plug his airline, noted that Virgin Atlantic would soon start flying to Cancun from London twice weekly.
In excess of $600,000 was raised Wednesday night at the event, all of which will be used to further the charity aims of the non-profit foundation of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.