Draped in luscious, fragrant floral blankets and suspended from pink candy-cane poles, dozens of dreamy carousel horses decorated the Mercedes-Benz Carousel of Hope Ball, a globally recognized fundraiser benefitting the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. The biannual event—its 13th time in LA—was held in October at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. It was founded 37 years ago by Barbara and the late Marvin Davis, founder of the Davis Oil Co. and former owner of 20th Century Fox.
As much as the horses have become an enduring symbol of the event, so too have the scores of celebrities and philanthropists who have helped the event raise more than $75 million since its inception. Tickets begin at $2,000 for a couple or $10,000 for a table of 10, up to $100,000 per table. The press corps packed tightly along the red carpet struggled to keep up with the parade of famous faces, including Diane Keaton, Sidney Poitier, Barry Manilow, Suzanne Somers, George Hamilton, Rod Stewart, Raquel Welch, Kathy Griffin, Anjelica Huston and Magic Johnson, who received the Brass Ring Award for his humanitarian efforts.
More than 900 guests filled the 16,300-square-foot International Ballroom, home to the Golden Globe Awards, which tucks an additional 400 guests into the space. The famous ballroom is supplemented by $5 million in audio equipment and equipped with custom lighting (the chandeliers can shine pink), which are run by the in-house production company, Encore Event Technologies.
Guided by Amanda Garrett, events manager for the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, teams of florists, decorators and caterers transformed the vast space into an intimate supper club, swathed and scented in rose pink. Sponsor Patrón even mixed a custom pink cocktail of mango and cranberry juice with its Silver Patrón tequila.
Beverly Hilton Executive Chef Troy Thompson developed a flexible menu that highlighted seasonality, starting with a salad of Bibb lettuce, beets, shrimp and cherry tomatoes. His kitchen turned 700 pounds of beef tenderloin into sophisticated chateaubriand, sauced tableside. Executive Pastry Chef Thomas Henzi designed a dessert as sweet and light as the décor: Baked Alaska, an expertly browned swirl of Italian meringue decorated with a mini pink-chocolate carousel horse. “It’s a very classic dessert,” Thompson says. “And it’s one of those things that everyone loves and people look at and say, ‘wow.’ ”
The guests were indeed wowed at every turn, including the instant they entered the silent auction, a massive affair decorated by party consultant Mindy Weiss. The auction tables occupied nearly one-quarter of the hotel’s 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Divided into themes of home décor, vacations, fashion, jewelry, sports and a children’s menagerie, the auction’s minimum bids began at $50 baskets of baked goods and soared into the stratosphere: a $7,000 minimum bid for a private jet flight worth $16,600; an $8,000 opening bid for a $22,000 diamond necklace; and $3,000 for a chance at a $6,800 Chanel clutch.
Master of ceremonies Jay Leno also hosted the live auction, which yielded a $160,000 bid for a rare 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe Edition 1 model and a $60,000 winning bid for a trip worth $250,000 to the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. The live and silent auctions netted $464,000 ($240,000 during the live auction). Leno stepped aside for a merry-go-round of famous singers—Josh Groban, Jennifer Hudson and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds—who entertained the crowd.
Director of Catering Robert Schwab, a veteran of several editions of the ball, said that even though the hotel is used to staging events of this size (more than 150 galas annually), the Carousel of Hope Ball comes at a coveted and busy time of year—the start of charity fundraising season. “We have a charity event here almost every single night for the next six weeks,” says Schwab. Setup for the Carousel takes almost three days; teardown is overnight. Early the next morning, virtually no sign of the massive event remains: no white horses, no pink flowers—not even a pricey Mercedes parked in the lobby.