It's not every day that Sir Elton John comes to town and leaves with $1 million, but last Tuesday the Mylan World Team Tennis Smash Hits benefit he co-founded with Billie Jean King 20 years ago had its most successful event ever. Fans packed the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center to watch matches with tennis greats including Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf, with special guests Anna Kournikova and Franco Harris coaching from the sidelines. Before the matches, more than 400 guests paid $500 to attend a VIP reception with Sir Elton and the players. Dinner by Bob Sendall's All in Good Taste was followed by an auction, with former pro tennis player Rennae Stubbs as auctioneer for a variety of luxury experiences. Two tickets to see Sir John's show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with a private dinner afterward with the singer and Ms. King, was sold twice for $100,000. (Jeff Koury bought one of the packages, Lawrence Wosscow from London the other.) A tennis lesson with Mr. Agassi went for $55,000, while Steve Moisites picked up Ms. King's four Wimbledon championship finals tickets for $20,000.
Proceeds went to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and locally to the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force -- the benefit chooses a different city each year so some of the money remains behind. "So many of my friends died, and I did nothing. Where was I? I was absent," Sir John said, crediting his involvement in AIDS awareness to meeting young Ryan White. "When you get a second chance in life don't waste it." Among those applauding his efforts were Peggy Lipps, David Hillman, Susie and Greg Perelman, Bill and Janet Hunt, Debbie Foster, Curt and Kim Tillotson Fleming, Ken and Marina Lehn and Steve Hough with Nachum Golan.
First Published October 23, 2012 4:00 AM