Elton John and George Lucas Honored at Geffen Benefit

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Elton John and Lady Gaga
Elton John and Lady Gaga

Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss for Invision

Sunday was a massive evening for the Geffen Playhouse, which honored Elton John, David Furnish, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson during its annual Backstage at the Geffen benefit; an affair which raised a record-breaking $1.5 million during the event, which goes towards the theater’s education, outreach and artistic initiatives.

During the evening, multi-award winning composer and a Geffen Playhouse Board Founding Trustee Quincy Jones presented the Distinction in Service Award to Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson and filmmaker George Lucas.  Tony nominated director Jason Moore presented the Distinction in Theater Award to producer David Furnish and internationally renowned singer/songwriter and performer, Sir Elton John.

Mellody Hobson and George Lucas
Mellody Hobson and George Lucas

Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss for Invision

Castle star Nathan Fillion served as Master of Ceremonies for Backstage at the Geffen, an evening which included “backstage” memories and musical performances by stars of the stage and screen including: Anjelica Huston, Samuel L. Jackson, Beau Bridges and Geffen Playhouse Artistic Director, Randall Arney.  Virtuoso violinist, Lee England, Jr. who, coincidentally, played for Mellody Hobson and George Lucas’s wedding, performed his version of “All of Me” by John Legend.   Actress, singer, dancer and choreographer Toni Basil choreographed 12 dancers who performed a hip hop version of “Swan Lake.”

David Geffen served as Honorary Chair of the event; Linda Bernstein Rubin and Loretta Everett Kaufman Co-Chaired the Backstage at the Geffen committee.  Pamela Robinson Hollander and Martha Henderson Co-Chair the Geffen Playhouse Board of Directors.  The evening was beautifully produced by Gil Cates, Jr. and directed by Randall Arney.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Alan F. Horn
Jeffrey Katzenberg and Alan F. Horn

Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss for Invision

The curtain rose to wild applause as Lady Gaga, surprising everyone including the honorees, took center stage to perform “You and I” accompanying herself on the piano  before joining the audience for the remainder of the show.

Highlights from the evening included a monologue by Samuel L. Jackson, who regaled the audience with his story of stumbling into acting in college and for the love of a girl.  The acting panned out and so did the girl, LaTanya Richardson.  She became his wife and to this day, “Is my harshest critic and biggest supporter”; Anjelica Huston, in hysterical, self-deprecating memories of her earliest reviews, remembered one critic comparing her voice to, “An unstrung tennis racket.”  A turn as understudy to Marianne Faithfull (then dating Mick Jagger), as Ophelia in Hamlet eventually led her to pack her bags, leaving London for New York and beginning her career in America; Beau Bridges waxed nostalgic about this mentor, the late Gil Cates, director, producer and Geffen Playhouse founder.  The story reached back to 1976 when Bridges was tapped to co-star in the film Dragonfly directed by Cates. It was a less than stellar beginning when Bridges proceeded to faint after working himself into a frenzy over a particularly daunting scene.  Unfortunate as that experience may have seemed, Cates partnered with Bridges many more times in the following decades.  Bridges credited Cates with teaching him patience, understanding and the power of learning from others.

Guests at the event arrived by 2015 Audi R8 V10 Carbon Spyder, were treated to featured cocktails and wines from The House of Remy Martin portfolio, including LOUIS XIII cognac and Piper-Heidsieck champagne,  and desserts ranging from Pure Cheesecakes, Black Market Gelato, Richard Ruskell Pastries and Deluscious Cookies.

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