Inside Elton John's Midsummer Night's Dream Party
The star sang with Chris Martin at his first South of France fete.
Elton John's inaugural South of France fete was the hottest ticket of the summer circuit: It wasn't just the 105 degree-plus heatwave, but the promise of seeing the legend perform with Coldplay's Chris Martin.
“It's a wonderful part of the world and it's been part of our lives for many, many years. We spend our summers here," said the singer-songwriter, who owns a home in nearby Nice.
John said he's traditionally thrown a party during Wimbledon Week at his home in Windsor, England, but was on tour this year, so he decided to move the fete to France. "We thought a lot of people we know are here on holiday and it would be nice to invite our local friends. It's always great to mix things up and surprise people."
It was an idea John and husband David Furnish had been toying with for a while. "It's always been a dream of ours to have an event down here. We've had a home down here for 22 years and this is a part of the world we love. It's more relaxed, which is good — we're not all tied up in black tie," added Furnish, who was sporting embroidered linen pajamas. Even the red carpet was dressed down in sisal, surrounded by potted lemon trees and boxes of fruit.
Rocketman star Taron Egerton reveled in another invitation from John. "He keeps asking me to hang out, which is great," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter. “He's an amazing man, as is David, and they've been very, very good to me. One of the great takeaways of being involved with Rocketman is that I've made some great new friends.”
Added Egerton: “Rocketman represents the single greatest achievement of my professional life. I'm fiercely proud of it, I'm fiercely proud of my friendship with David and Elton and it's a great honor to be here."
Asked about the Oscar buzz surrounding his powerhouse performance, the actor laughed and shut it down with an emphatic "no."
The party took place on the grounds of photographer Jean Pigozzi's Villa Dorane. The garden was decorated with hydrangeas and peonies, and guests sipped cocktails next to Pigozzi's famous pool, immortalized in a series of pics of Elle Macpherson, Bono, Naomi Campbell and Sharon Stone frolicking in the water.
“We hope everyone has a great time because they paid a lot of money to be here,” joked John, where seats went for a minimum of $12,500.
Chris Martin took to the stage to play the Coldplay hits "Something Just Like This," "Yellow" and "Viva la Vida" in a relaxed set before joining John for duets of the latter's "Rocket Man" and "I'm Still Standing."
Martin joked that he's been working out lately and would pay $1 million if someone let him take off his shirt. While there didn't seem to be any objections from the audience, he remained clothed onstage as he sang and played piano. He also said that it was a dream performing in front of his childhood hero Pete Townshend. The Who guitarist told him "Viva la Vida" is a tune he hums in the shower. “Not sure if that was a compliment, but I'll take it,” joked Martin.
It was Julian Lennon's first time seeing John perform live, despite the fact the two are neighbors on the Cote d'Azur. “We have a lot of the same friends and we bump into each other, but I'm busy, he's busy. I don't know why, but it's just never happened so far,” he said. But the two have also discussed the idea of a musical collaboration. “We have talked about it so maybe that will happen this year," said Lennon.
During the auction, guests paid $90,000 for tickets to John's annual Oscar party, and Elton himself bid $280,000 on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to add to his art collection. But the big bid of the evening came from American singer Hilary Roberts as Egerton and John were auctioning off the checkered Gucci jacket and Yamaha piano featured in Rocketman.
When bidding stalled at $445,000, Roberts took the microphone to say she'd paid more for another one of John's pianos at a Los Angeles event. When that failed to get the crowd to open their wallets wider, Roberts upped the ante, asking John if he would cameo in her upcoming music video. He agreed, and the package went for a cool $1 million.
The evening overall raised $6.1 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which is earmarked for testing and treatment programs in Kenya.