Musician Willie Nelson, Gail Abarbanel of Stuart House, actor Darren Le Gallo, actress Amy Adams, and designer John Varvatos arrives at the John Varvatos 11th Annual Stuart House Benefit presented by Chrysler, Kids Tent by by Hasbro at John Varvatos Boutique on April 13, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for John Varvatos) *** Local Caption *** Willie Nelson; Gail Abarbanel; Darren Le Gallo; Amy Adams; John Varvatos
by: Adam Tschorn
All Willie Nelson pot-smoking jokes aside, Sunday afternoon’s Stuart House benefit at the John Varvatos boutique in West Hollywood – including a musical performance by the country singer and sons Lukas and Micah – marked a serious high point in the annual event, raising a record $939,000 in just five hours.
That tops the $830,000 raised in the same window at last year’s event. Since the final 2013 tally grew by $120,000 by the time the online auction period ended 11 days later, we’re guessing this year’s post-event on-line bids and donations will push the funds raised over the $1 million mark.
The funds, which will benefit Stuart House, a program of the Rape Treatment Crisis Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, couldn’t come at a better time, according to the program’s founder and director, Gail Abarbanel.
“This is a landmark year,” Abarbanel told a celebrity-heavy crowd that included co-hosts Amy Adams and Darren Le Gallo, LL Cool J and Courtney Love. “In a few weeks, we’ll be breaking ground on a new building that will double our capacity and allow us to do the necessary training. … Think of this as a ground-breaking event in advance of the ground-breaking event.”
Abarbanel was followed to the stage by Adams and her fiancé, fellow actor and co-host Le Gallo. Adams, who has been involved with the organization since hosting a fundraiser brunch five years ago, profusely thanked the crowd for showing up — and opening up their wallets.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said, “It’s easy to turn away [from a topic like this]. Thank you for not turning away.”
With that, a spirited live auction — conducted by comedian Bill Bellamy — got under way, starting with an electric guitar signed by the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “We’ll even throw in a pair of tube socks,” Bellamy said — a reference to the band’s famously naked-but-for-the-socks album cover. The winning bid went to LL Cool J, who dropped a cool $8,000 and took the stage to accept the guitar — and a pair of (thankfully new) socks.
“Now I’ve got some tube socks for my next concert,” he quipped.
After that, a blur of items followed, including a VIP pass to the second weekend of the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in Ojai (a last-minute addition that went for $3,250), a personal shopping spree with John Varvatos that fetched $20,000 (When Bellamy joked that the winning bidder would get the opportunity to “smoke some weed with John Varvatos,” the designer joked right back: “OK, I’ll throw that in too!”)
After the live auction, country music legend (and OG of celebrity pot consumption) Willie Nelson took to the stage for a mini-concert of sorts, accompanied by sons Lukas and Micah and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, turning out a generous set that started with “Whiskey River” and included crowd favorites “On the Road Again,” “Crazy” and our personal favorite, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
In addition to the A-listers mentioned above, celebrity supporters on hand included Rachel Zoe (fresh off her Festival of Books appearance the day before) in the Hasbro-sponsored kid’s tent with son Skyler, Romany Malco (“Weeds”), Donald Faison (“Scrubs”), stylist George Kotsiopoulos (“Fashion Police”) and Melina Kanakaredes (“CSI: NY”).
Silent auction items from the 11th annual John Varvatos Stuart House benefit will be up for bid at charitybuzz.com/johnvarvatos through April 23.