What happens when you put Helen Mirren, Moby, Paul Haggis and the Arcade Fire together in a castle?
As the sunset loomed over Casa Loma last night, partygoers arrived at the Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser and posed for pictures before heading into the Grand Atrium for champagne and appetizers. Helen Mirren appeared in a tight black-and-white sheath dress, while Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Cassagne were deep in conversation with Moby. There was no sign of the evening’s expected host Jane Fonda, who never materialized over the course of the evening, and whose absence was never addressed. (Jane Fonda, are you okay? Do you need help? Just be in touch!).
Outside the castle, Sylvia Mantella, wearing a plunging Roberto Cavalli gown, described the animal reserve in Miami where she and her husband, developer Bob Mantella, live part-time and raise 200 exotic pets, including Bengal tigers and sloths. “They sleep for over 20 hours a day, so they’re really easy to raise,” she said. Later, when the subject of work came up with a former Alliance Atlantis producer, he said, “Oh, I don’t need to work—I’m rich!”
Guests were ushered past the much-needed bar and neon-lit fountain, arriving in a glass atrium done up with gigantic chandeliers and pink bouquets. Apple slices and honey were laid out on the table to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which began last night. Then the main attraction began: an auction to get the crowd to open their hearts, minds and wallets to help build schools for the impoverished people of Haiti. The hosts for this portion of the evening were George Stroumboulopoulos and the Property Brothers, who had apparently been boning up on their auctioneering skills for months. Paul Haggis oversaw the event, greeting most donors by name and jumping onstage to grease some wheels.
“You guys know that James Franco is a very cool guy, he’s fun,” said one Property Brother. “His brother Dave is joining him, so that’s two Francos for the price of one.” They were auctioning off a day on the set of James Franco’s new film The Disaster Artist, a movie about the making of The Room, which features Franco as the infamous director Tommy Wiseau. The prize eventually went for $150,000. Another item on the docket was the chance to watch David Blaine do close-up magic. It was introduced with a 10-minute video of Blaine turning coffee cups of liquid into ice, and then turning the ice into pennies. The Property Brothers’ pitch? “You will see him do all that stuff and you could ask him how he did that stuff!” ($100,000).
Other highlights of the auction included Butler standing on a chair and singing a few bars of The Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” to raise money for a Jackson Browne studio session prize, and one Property Brother’s enticing sell for a dinner with designer Diane Von Fustenberg: “Come on guys, she built a billion-dollar empire! She invented the wrap!” Finally, it was time for the evening’s marquee bid: a walk-on role in a Paul Haggis film! After a lot of aggressive fund-raising, it finally went for $195,000.
Toward the end of the night, Mirren presented an award to Susan Sarandon for her contributions to the cause, gushing that Sarandon has “brains, beauty and balls.” And throughout the auction, Moby waited outside, chatting with friends. He was slated to play an acoustic set as the evening’s main attraction. “I think for the sake of everyone, I’ll do a five-minute set because at this point I’ll be going onstage at 3 or 4 in the morning,” he said. At one point, Haggis came out to ask him to meet a donor. “Then you can go pee,” Haggis told him.
Moby finally leapt up onstage at around 1 a.m. to play three songs on guitar with two female singers. Butler and Cassagne closed out the evening with a laptop DJ set and live Haitian drumming. (Cassagne twirling around the room while drumming barefoot is one of the happiest sights we’ve ever seen.) The thinned-out crowd danced to the beat as Haggis twirled a few socialites around the room. In the end, they’d raised over a million dollars for the people of Haiti, and everyone went home with a Diptyque candle.