The Museum of Contemporary Art's recent fundraiser was proclaimed to be many things:
Trailed by a "60 Minutes" TV crew, while being observed by Connie Bruck for a New Yorker profile, Eli Broad said the "Artist's Museum Happening" promised to redefine museum galas.
Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager called the Nov. 13 event "the anti-gala."
"If it's unexpected, that's what I want," said artist Doug Aitken, the affair's choreographer. For starters, Aitken prescribed music by Devendra Banhart, Beck and Caetano Veloso. A gospel choir, speed-talking auctioneers, table-drummers and a cowboy with a cattle whip performed the finale.
According to event producer Carleen Cappelletti of Bounce, the MOCA "happening" required 40 people for pitching the dinner tent, 65 valets, 202 waiters, 100 staffers with walkie-talkies and 90 workers for production, lights and sound. An overhead sculpture designed by architect Barbara Bestor took 2,900 feet of PVC pipe and 192 meter-length lighting tubes.
"It's all Doug's vision. We just had to control the budget," said Broad, who served as gala co-chair.
The crowd of 900 brought together artists, collectors, celebrities and community leaders and included board co-chair David Johnson and his wife, Suzanne Nora Johnson; board President Jeffrey Soros and his wife Catharine; honorary gala co-chair Dasha Zhukova; dinner co-chairs Nancy Marks and Carolyn Powers; and gala co-chair Maria Arena Bell, who estimated gross proceeds topping $3 million.
At the pre-dinner reception inside the museum, Victoria Tennant and her husband, producer Kirk Stambler, selected their favorite artworks. "We always play a game," Tennant said. "If there's something we could take home, what would it be?" Her choice: Christopher Williams photographs; his, a Mark Rothko from the permanent collection.
Eastwood, he said, deserved the museum's Tolerance Award, given Nov. 14 in conjunction with the institution's film festival.
"Clint always goes after the bad guys," Hier said. "He makes people who want to get rid of the bad guys feel good." Moreover, he added, Eastwood's films encourage respect and inclusion, giving "Gran Torino" and "Invictus" as examples.
"I think [my focus] has changed in the last decade," Eastwood said. "I've done things I wouldn't have done 35 years ago. 'Gran Torino' seems like a very commercial film, but it teaches tolerance."
The heartfelt tribute featured film clips, music from Eastwood films and brief speeches by Bryce Dallas Howard, of "Hereafter," and Eli Wallach, Eastwood's costar in the 1966 film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
"Remember that movie?" asked emcee George Lopez from onstage, noting that today, the politically correct title would be "The Good, the Misunderstood and the Appearancely Challenged."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the award, saying he did so out of love for both the museum and the actor who inspired him to make action films and spout such phrases as "I'll be back."
"We have five Oscars between us," the governor said. "All his."
There too to salute Eastwood were Taylor Hicks, Tia Carrere, Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman, Robin and Elliot Broidy, Gitta and Jack Nagel, Fela and David Shapell, Jim Ruth, David Conney and Frank Luntz.
Carrere said, "When I heard the award for tolerance was going to Clint Eastwood, I thought, what more perfect filmmaker could there be? He's been able to elevate people's consciousness, and in a better way than by preaching or banging them on the head."