In what can only be described as the most star-studded event New Orleans has ever seen, A Night to Make It Right, a fundraiser for Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation, was everything it was hyped to be and more.
We walked into the new Hyatt Regency New Orleans and were immediately blown away by the hundreds of “fans” lining the red carpet, hoping to see the many celebrities in attendance. The Hyatt was gracious enough to donate the space for the party, which served as the unofficial “grand opening event” for the hotel.
Kermit Ruffins and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicked off the party and got all 1,200 guests into their seats. Mayor Landrieu welcomed the crowd and started listing all the celebrities in attendance, thanking them for their contribution to our rebuilding efforts. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Ellen DeGeneres, Randy Jackson and others received the applause you’d expect, but when Drew Brees was recognized, the crown rose to their feet in uproarious applause and hollers of “DREW!!!!” It made me proud to be a local.
DeGeneres served as our host for the party, saying she was thrilled to be back in New Orleans to stroll down memory lane and visit all the places in town "where she’d thrown up." It made me even prouder to be a local.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but some other big names in the room (to my great fortune, our table was near an exit, so everyone had to pass by us on their way out) were Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Wendell Pierce, who all are in town working on film and TV projects, as well as Seal, Sean Penn, Aziz Ansari, Minka Kelly, Camryn Manheim and, my mother’s favorite, Ronn Moss, who plays “Ridge” on The Bold and the Beautiful.
Musical acts for the seated portion of the evening included Sheryl Crow, who told a great story about going to college with Brad Pitt and teaching his fraternity brothers how to sing, as well as Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.
DeGeneres “interviewed” Brad Pitt on stage and they talked about the great work Make It Right has done to bring affordable, energy efficient housing to families in the Lower 9th Ward, who had no other way of returning to New Orleans. Three current residents of Make It Right homes shared their stories and mentioned that their energy bills were between 20 and 25 dollars a month. Sign me up!
Brees, DeGeneres and Randy Jackson served as auctioneers for the craziest live auction I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve witnessed quite a few. The audience was on their feet, and things got so loud from the excitement that Sean Penn hopped on stage and asked everyone to settle down. Have I mentioned that I love being from New Orleans?
The gala came to a close with a special performance from Rihanna, which got us so excited that we ran to the front of the stage to sing and dance along, and eventually climbed on stage with a bunch of ladies to dance with Rihanna. I had a great view of Pitt joining Brees’ table to chat about what I can only assume was getting signed footballs for his kids.
Heading upstairs to the after party, we were joined by 500 more guests all looking forward to seeing Seal, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West perform. Ansari hosted the party and the dancing continued until five in the morning.
I have to believe that only a city like this could host as incredible of a party with as many entertainers who all want to give back and show their support of a place that welcomes them each time they visit with open arms. Here’s to 150 Make It Right homes being built and 150 families enjoying all the splendors of New Orleans!