Block Party of the Year: The 9th Annual John Varvatos Stuart House Benefit

Table Decorated with Sweet Cuties

Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow

When an an entire block in Beverly Hills is closed off for an entire day, something’s going on and it’s probably where you want to be. On Sunday March 11, that block was at Robertson and Beverly for the 9th annual John Varvatos Stuart House benefit.

The star studded event was led by co-chairs Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann. Actor/comedian Bill Bellamy assisted in the live auction and the musical guest was the legendary Dave Matthews.

I had my good friend Parker Bartlett by my side and we were ready to have some fun to support a great cause!

I first heard about the Stuart House when I attended the Annual Rape Treatment Center Brunch hosted by the cast of Mad Men. The Stuart House is an internationally recognized, model program created by The Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center to serve the special needs of sexually abused children and their families.

Stuart House provides therapy, medical care, forensic services and all of the crucial support that is needed completely free of charge.

This service would not be possible if not for the reliable and lucrative fundraising efforts from people like John Varvatos, whose annual event has morphed from a small charity function to the block party of the year.

Since the Stuart House is about helping children, this was an extremely family friendly event. Hasbro was a main sponsor of the event and put together a separate kid’s tent that was pretty incredible. There were live performers from magicians to balloon artists, arts and craft tables, video games and gigantic versions of Jenga, Connect Four and Operation. These kids were entertained!

The Hasbro Kids Tent

Parker Bartlett and Steven Tyler

There was plenty for the adults to do as well. There were hundreds of items up for the silent and online auction. I have never seen so many items up for bid at an event like this before, and even with more than 1700 people in attendance, a silent auction of this size was impressive!

In addition to travel packages, restaurant certificates, beauty offers, art, shopping sprees and loads of autographed memorabilia, they also offered internships, one on one consultations, walk on TV roles, and 23 different celebrity meet and greets. I think it’s safe to say that no one says no to donating to Stuart House.

People who were unable to attend and want in on the silent auction action (or those who still have their minds on certain auction items they bid on the day of the event) can still bid on their favorite items online until March 20th. Visit the still-open auction by clicking here.

Items up for Silent Auction

There were some strong drinks being poured on either side of the main stage. I started with a strong Patron tequila drink, but after I kept making funny faces after each sip, Parker insisted I try something else and I opted for a Cosmo instead.

Bill Bellamy and Parker Bartlett

While we were drink tasting we ran into the actor/comedian Bill Bellamy who happily posed for pictures and then had us take a couple of him to send to his twitter followers. We also ran into Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann who was quietly reciting her speech. The crowd was already forming anxiously waiting to see Dave Matthews.

We also stopped to admire the Limited Edition Chrysler 300S that was customized by John Varvatos for this event. I peeked inside and it was the epitome of luxury. Whoever takes it home will truly know what it is like to drive in style!

The Limited Edition Chrysler 300S

We kept on our journey and stopped into the John Varvatos Boutique, where another smaller side party was going on with a live DJ and drinks and appetizers being served.

We admired the fine men’s clothing and photography inside the boutique when we noticed someone else admiring the clothes as well — the famous Rock God Alice Cooper was perusing jeans.

People Magazine has a column on it and it’s true: stars really are just like us. He was very kind and posed for a photo with Parker and then continued to shop. One of the items being auctioned off was a round of golf in Phoenix, Arizona with the man himself. Golf with Alice Cooper? That’s a unique experience if I’ve ever heard one!

Inside The John Varvatos Boutique

Alice Cooper and Parker Bartlett

Next we decided to look for some lunch. There were food trucks from In-N-Out Burger, Hot Dog on a Stick and The Munchi Machine that provided tasty grilled sandwiches. Also on all of the tables there were bowls of Cuties California Mandarins, which I thought was a great treat for everyone!

Making "Nitro Dreams" Ice cream (www.nitrodreams.com)

My favorite delectable, however, was the Nitro Dreams ice cream. It was ice cream made in seconds by combining the ingredients with cream and then pouring on liquid nitrogen to instantly make it freeze. I was absolutely fascinated by this and this “nitro” ice cream was the freshest I had ever tasted!

We returned to grab a good spot in front of the stage to get ready for the fabulous Dave Matthews to play. Shortly thereafter John Varvatos took the stage along with his adorable daughter Thea to make a few remarks.

He said, “This is why we’re here today. To protect our kids. I went to the Stuart House and I had my heart ripped out. And it changed me forever.”

He also said Stuart House Benefit began with a small tent in the parking lot and was thrilled to announce that today there were nearly 1700 people in attendance.

John Varvatos and his daughter Thea

Next up was a moving speech from Gail Abarbanel, the amazing woman who founded Stuart House and The Rape Treatment Center 37 years ago. She took the stage to say a few words and give thanks to all of the sponsors and the attendees.

“Today is about giving kids a voice and a place where they can be relieved of this horrible burden, secrecy and shame and start on the road to the healing process,” she said.

The crowd erupted in applause and Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow stepped up to speak and host the live auction. Apatow’s appropriate and funny segue into the live auction was a sarcastic but serious remark — “I think it’s important to spend a lot of money on things you don’t need.” (in the name of a great cause like Stuart House, of course!)

Gail Abarbanel and Liesl Jackson

The live auction included items such as tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in concert, a chance to attend the premiere and after party of Judd Apatow’s upcoming film, “This is 40,” and a New York City Shopping Spree with John Varvatos.

Bill Bellamy assisted the auctioneer in coaxing the crowd to bid high, but there was no coaxing needed when the bidding went to sponsoring a Stuart House holiday party. To me it was the most touching moment of the day when not one, but two gifts were made for $10,000 each to ensure that these special children felt loved and cared for during the holiday season. Just incredible.

Dave Matthews Performing

When Dave Matthews took the stage the crowd went wild. When he mentioned, “I’m working on a new album that I hope doesn’t suck,” they really went wild. His performance was excellent. Nobody has a sound like Dave Matthews and I have always been a fan. I loved getting to hear and see him perform live for the first time and so did everyone else.

I have to admit though, seeing him in this way at an event, up close and personal is definitely going to set the bar high for any other performances. I can’t say a concert at, say, Staples Center with hundreds of thousands of fans will be able to compare to this more intimate “concert” among the 1700 of us there!

Cindy Crawford, Rande Gerber and Steven Tyler

Parker and I walked around and spotted a few more celebrities including David Spade, the lovely and ageless Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber, Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas, lyricist Linda Thompson, So you Think You can Dance judge and choreographer Adam Shankman, Dawson’s Creek’s James Van Der Beek and Steven Tyler.

Judd Apatow, David Spade and Liesl Jackson

Alice Cooper with James Van Der Beek

Parker Bartlett and Linda Thompson

Everyone was very kind and courteous and happy to pose for pictures. The highlight of the day was having the honor of shaking hands with Gail Abarbanel and thanking her personally for everything she’s done for survivors of sexual assault. It was the perfect way to end the day.

It was a hugely successful event and Parker and I and all of the attendees had a fantastic time. John Varvatos definitely knows how to throw a party! Thanks to him, Gail, all of the sponsors and generous attendees, Stuart House can continue to provide help, love and sanctuary to any child who has been affected by sexual abuse.

If you want to help or learn more, visit their website here.

Just another reminder there are still items up for bid online until March 20th including red carpet experiences, sports and music memorabilia and that Chrysler 300S! To see all the items and place your bid, click here!

 

About Liesl Jackson:
Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at liesljackson@yahoo.com. Follow her on twitter @SillyLiesl and follow The Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.
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