Hammer Museum Honors Laurie Anderson, Todd Haynes While Trump's "Locker Room Talk" Dominates Chatter

Sarah Paulson Todd Haynes - H 2016
(Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Hammer Museum)

Conversations come easily at Hammer Museum's annual Gala in the Garden.

Held on typically sweltering Saturday in October (temperatures reached 90 degrees in Los Angeles on this day, the 14th annual), the weekend vibe delivers a more relaxed crowd of A-listers and everyone — philanthropists, artists, art lovers, actors and Hollywood insiders — seems open, approachable and yes, happy to be there. The same cannot be said of every event in town, but even this night spent inside Westwood's contemporary art outpost, sponsored again by Bottega Veneta, stood out from previous Hammer galas. 

One reason behind the noticeable change in energy presented itself at the top of the stairs leading to the museum's upper deck, which hosted the two-hour cocktail portion of the event that precedes the gala dinner (catered by Lucques' Suzanne Goin), awards presentations (artist Laurie Anderson and filmmaker Todd Haynes shared top billing as honorees) and featured performance (a radiant Rufus Wainwright on piano). 

"In Progress" read a museum sign announcing that the third-floor galleries are currently closed and under renovation, supervised by architect Michael Maltzan and scheduled to reopen in January. In the absence of art on the walls and the spaces in between, gala guests gathered in clusters on the terrace overlooking elegantly designed tables below, lit up under the glow of lanterns designed by Pedro&Juana. 

And while people were still eager to talk about art in all its forms — Emma Roberts was overheard telling her Emmy-winning pal Sarah Paulson that this season of American Horror Story is her favorite so far — as well as fashion and the beloved honorees (more on both later), the subject of politics dominated cocktail chatter. Specifically, people were buzzing about Donald Trump and the bombshell reveal of his vulgar comments about women. Apologies, "buzzing" isn't the most appropriate word.

January Jones, one of the first guests to arrive, told The Hollywood Reporter that she "unfortunately wasn't surprised" about Trump's shocking statements, picked up from an Access Hollywood microphone during an off-camera moment with then-host Billy Bush. Still, Jones, clad in a black oversized blazer and high-waisted pants (both by Bottega), said she didn't have a lot to say on the subject. "I had to separate myself from it recently after the last debate," she explained. "I can't watch it anymore. It's disappointing on so many levels and it's embarrassing as a country. There's so much negativity."

Conversation may come easily, but the talk isn't always light-hearted.

And the discussions Will Ferrell and wife Viveca Paulin-Ferrell have been having with friends since Trump's comments became public Friday afternoon have been particularly heavy and politically charged, they said.

"We've been talking about it all day with everybody we've been running into," Paulin-Ferrell told THR. "He's a despicable person. I'm kind of speechless about everything he has said and done and what he stands for. I feel like I'm at my wits' end with Trump. I don't know what else it's going to take for the public to vote for the right person in Hilllary [Clinton]." 

Ferrell added that it's stopped being a gray area. "It's not a political argument any longer. It's not a Republican or Democratic issue," he commented before adding insight into the challenges parents face in their homes to translate what is going on politically. "I don't know how to explain what's happening to our children." 

He wouldn't be the only star to mention children during the evening. Andie MacDowell, making her Hammer Museum debut in support of her friends at Bottega Veneta, said Trump's comments led her to a four-hour Twitter charge. "I felt violated and it violated the feelings I have ... for my daughters and all the little girls out there," she said. 

Laura Dern said she spent part of her weekend discussing politics and gender with her 11-year-old daughter, using a clip of Clinton responding to a question from a 15-year-old girl about body image. "I got to show her that and add the context about how essential all of our voices are," said Dern. "And I let her know that we are never going to let anyone take our voices away from us after the pioneers who came before us fought so hard so we could speak up. So, yes, it's particularly gorgeous to be here tonight to celebrate people, brilliant artists Laurie Anderson and Todd Haynes, who remind us again that when others go low, these guys go high." 

When the names Anderson and Haynes were mentioned, the energy in a conversation raised to a positive peak. Both were spotted weaving their way through the upper terrace, shaking hands, exchanging hugs and posing for photographs. Haynes, flanked by family members and longtime producer friend Christine Vachon, seemed especially stoked to see his name alongside Anderson's. 

"It's a little trippy to be paired with her," laughed Haynes, taking a break from editing his upcoming film Wonderstruck. "She blew my mind when I first became aware of her work. I recently saw her film Heart of a Dog, and what a magnificent piece of work. She's been an inspiration my whole life." 

A life that started in Los Angeles, a fact that Vachon said made the honor especially "awesome." Haynes agreed. "I'm from L.A. and what [Hammer museum director] Ann Philbin has done with the Hammer is remarkable. She's made it a vital and essential cultural institution. The Billy Wilder Theater is a centerpiece of this place and I've had amazing screenings there for our films, and great Q&As." 

Conversation always comes more easily at the Hammer when Philbin's name is mentioned. 

"We love Ann Philbin and everything she has done to transform this museum and make it such a cultural destination," smiled Paulin-Ferrell, a Hammer board member. "I love the learning that I do here. I feel like I'm still in college — it's so fun." 

Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier, fresh from his well-received runway show in Milan, also praised the museum's educational initiatives, something that has led Bottega to keep coming back in partnership for the event. "We are all about education," he told THR. "This is a great connection, because the Hammer focuses so much on educating young people. We, too, have our own school in Italy to train young people." 

Maier provided his own lesson in success when asked about how he celebrated a year of milestones that includes Bottega's 50th anniversary as well as his own 15th year with the luxury fashion house. Did he gift himself anything or take a few days off? Nope. "Just moving ahead," he said. "Working harder, looking toward the next step." 

Ferrell, steps away, was looking for the right honoree, proving that conversations could be hilarious, too. 

"Someone thought I was going to an event honoring Loni Anderson," he joked. "I said, 'No, no, not WKRP. But Laurie Anderson." 

Ferrell knows his Andersons well, and he also knows the Gala in the Garden well, too. "We always buy a table and try to invite people who haven't been before. They always come away saying, 'That was so cool.' The speeches are great. The evening is so great, and I love the idea of pairing two artists from two vastly different areas." 

Dern agreed: "They both are fierce subversives in their work and I love that Todd is being honored by a museum specifically because his work is so the work of a great painter. His design is beautiful and every shot is so beautiful and meticulous."

Jodie Foster agreed as well.

"They've changed the lives of so many artists," she told THR of Anderson and Haynes. "They are amazing." 

Anderson, interviewed minutes before she made her way downstairs to dinner, told THR that she was in awe of many of the artists who turned out for the event. "I'm super starstruck," she explained, pointing specifically at writer Karl Ove Knausgård, who accepted her request to present her with the award, something she never thought would happen. "He's my favorite writer." 

The iconic multimedia artist also smiled when informed that Tom Ford, too, was in the building. Anderson and her fellow jurors at the recent Venice Film Festival honored Ford's new film, Nocturnal Animals, with the grand jury prize. "I love his film. It's very beautiful. I'm excited that he's here," she said. "It's amazing how he could become such a good filmmaker so fast, and from such another world. I really admire that a lot. Tom can do a lot of things really beautifully." 

As for what she plans to do next, Anderson revealed she's been working with Taiwanese artists on tackling virtual reality. "I'm totally freaking on VR. I'm building a bunch of stuff but also doing a lot of writing," she said. "I'm working on several different projects."

She will, most likely, use some of the contentious political discussions flooding the national landscape to influence her future works. She made use of Trump's vulgar comments in her acceptance speech by using a modified voice and uttering, "Of course, you ladies must not forget — I can do whatever I want to you, whenever I want to do it. Why? Because I'm a star." 

That was later, though, during the dinner. And still during cocktail time, Ferrell and his wife lightened the chatter by offering that "laughter and love" is the best part about being out on the town together. 

See, conversations do come easy at the Hammer, even if the discussion gets sidetracked for a relevant moment. "We have so much fun together and we feel fortunate to be able to come out and support a night like this," said Paulin-Ferrell

And proving that conversations can also be brief and not-at-all political, Ford told THR how he was feeling on a warm Saturday night in the city. "Great museum," he said. "Happy to be here."