Sean Penn appeared Saturday night in Beverly Hills at his own fundraiser in which he took to the stage numerous times to speak, yet didn’t allude to the controversy that exploded just hours earlier pertaining to his published interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The “Sean Penn & Friends: Help Haiti Home” charity gala went on as scheduled at the Montage Hotel, but he and other celebrities kept the focus squarely on the cause for which he raised more than $7 million.
Before opening the live auction, Penn teared up at the podium recalling the death of a 15-year-old in Haiti, who was refused treatment at hospitals. “So whose fault was it that he died? It was my fault as much as your fault… We can’t depend on governments… We have to make it better now,” Penn said. “Let’s use the cash to stop people from strapping bombs on their bodies and killing other people.”
The gala benefits the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which was co-founded by Penn in 2010 in response to the devastating 7.0 earthquake. Traditionally held during Golden Globes weekend, the gala was emceed by Anderson Cooper and co-hosted by Penn, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Sean & Alexandra Parker. Variety is a media sponsor of the event.
Approached at the event by a Variety reporter, Penn declined to be interviewed through his publicist.
Celeb guests Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio were active in the live auction, bidding and donating. Madonna performed a French song on the ukelele and auctioned the ukelele for $300,000. Former president Bill Clinton, who has attended the gala in previous years, also sent video remarks saying of the organization, “I’ve seen firsthand the differences they’re making for Haitian people.”
Justin Bieber, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Arquette, Jason Segel, Emile Hirsch, Pamela Anderson, Soleil Moon Frye, Lana del Rey and Rachel Zoe were also in attendance. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers closed the show.
ABC News reported Saturday night that Penn is now under investigation for the interview, according to a Mexican official. El Chapo was recaptured Friday after escaping a Mexican prison in July.
“I want to say Sean, I love you, from the moment that I laid eyes on you,” Madonna said to Penn, “I just wish you’d stop smoking cigarettes.”