Hollywood’s Exclusive Zoom Parties: Creators Share Top Moments
Throughout the safer-at-home order, hundreds of actors, musicians and the most powerful insiders in show business have been spending their socially distanced weekends on Quarantunes, one of the most exclusive A-list parties on Zoom.
The brainchild of William Morris Endeavor agent Richard Weitz and his 17-year-old daughter Demi, Quarantunes began as a way to celebrate Demi’s birthday before it became Hollywood’s go-to virtual event while mass physical gatherings are off-limits. It’s become a major fundraiser too. Starting with a $10,000 GoFundMe goal for Los Angeles’s Saban Community Clinic with various donor partners, Quarantunes has since raised over $2 million for various non-profits amid the pandemic, including Baby2Baby, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the CDC Foundation and Team Rubicon. The next goal for Quarantunes, Demi Weitz says, is to pass the $3 million mark. For the next stream, Quarantunes will be donating to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Among some of the more notable donations, in early May, Quarantunes partnered with Goldman Sachs Wealth Management, which donated an initial $100,000 for Team Rubicon, with CEO David Solomon coming on the call to contribute an additional $50,000, and their clients contributing donations that exceeded $500,000 by the end of the evening.
Politicians including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms have all come on the stream, with performances by John Mayer, John Legend, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Yola, Charlie Puth, and Rob Thomas, among others. Legendary producer and label executive Clive Davis has been a popular mainstay of the event, regularly telling stories and introducing musicians for their performances. Richard Weitz says he’d anticipated Quarantunes nearing its end past Memorial Day as social distancing measures dropped off, but with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announcing this week that stay-at-home orders could last well into the summer, he’s planning accordingly.
The shows are a bit long, Weitz admits, usually running for at least three hours, with some going well past that. But the lengthiness has created a number of see-it-to-believe it moments that only comes with randomly placing celebrities near each other. On Mother’s Day, Newsom and Ricky Gervais both spoke, Earth Wind & Fire made and premiered a socially distanced video for their song “Devotion” and Rod Stewart sent in a video singing an a-capella version of “Forever Young.”
“Brevity is something we’re going to look at, but it never goes long because it’s a drag,” Weitz says. “It’s because John Legend decides he wants to play a couple more songs.”
Richard and Demi Weitz, readying the next iteration of their popular Hollywood hang airing Fridays and Saturdays, recounted to Rolling Stone some of the show’s most memorable moments alongside standouts from the most recent Mother’s Day stream.
1. Alex Rodriguez tried negotiating a deal to buy the Mets while on a Quarantunes call
Retired MLB star Alex Rodriguez and pop star Jennifer Lopez had already made headlines before Rodriguez appeared on a recent Qurantunes stream, when the power couple had shown interest in purchasing the New York Mets. That deal has reportedly dissolved, but while he was still courting the team, Rodriguez, who was muted on Quarantunes while still on the phone with the baseball team, had accidentally been unmuted, giving all the attendees a glimpse into the potential deal.
“His publicist kept telling me he was on, we thought he was muted, but evidently he’d been unmuted, and we interrupted him publicly during the middle of his negotiation with the Mets,” Richard says. “The news was already out that he wanted the team, but we heard him talking about what he wanted to do to get it. We thought he was donating money because he started throwing out numbers, but we quickly realized he wasn’t talking to me.” (Unsurprisingly, Weitz declined to say how much Rodriguez was willing to pay for the team.)
Rodriguez isn’t the only sports figure who’s been featured on the streams; Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and retired hall of fame manager Joe Torre have both made appearances, as have Phillie Phanatic, mascot for Weitz’s home town Philadelphia Phillies, and Gnash, mascot for the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
2. Kermit the Frog sang “Rainbow Connection” with Josh Groban
The iconic muppet character performing his signature tune with a popular adult contemporary singer sounds like a fever dream, but such quirkiness is Quarantunes’ trademark, with the two crooning together on the most recent show. (Tina Fey, adding to the unpredictability, was talking with Kermit before the performance.) Muppets creator Jim Henson’s daughter, television producer Lisa Henson, was on the call too. “Your hair looks real nice; when have you thought about getting a haircut?” Kermit quipped to Groban on the singer’s hair, untouched through the pandemic.
“I never announce who’s going to be on it. You never know who’s coming on, which is why I love it so much,” the elder Weitz says. “I love Kermit The Frog, Gavin Newsom or Earth, Wind & Fire being on the same [show].”
3. Weitz had to silence Gal Gadot and other technical difficulties
Along with the typical Zoom call staples like children yelling and interrupting conversations, the 500-person chats have their shares of technology hiccups. “On my birthday zoom, I remember having to write in the chat ‘Gal Gadot, mute yourself,'” Weitz says. People kept saying it was unbelievable. I don’t care, you’re invited, it’s private, so yes, mute yourself.” Another time, one forgetful attendee left their camera on, causing him to accidentally flash the rest of the Quarantunes chat as he stood naked in front of the computer.
4. Jackson Browne performed “Somebody’s Baby”
The Hall of Fame singer-songwriter performed the song at Richard’s request as Quarantunes was donating to Baby2Baby. Browne touched on how while it’s associated with Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it wasn’t explicitly written for the film. It became a hit for Browne, but as he recalled on the stream, he didn’t like it after he’d finished writing the song.
“This was a song I didn’t even like that much when I wrote it, but when it became a hit, I was still making my record and David Geffen called and said ‘you’re going to put that on your record, right?'”, Browne recalls. “I said no and he said I should. I didn’t, but he was right, I should’ve.”
5. Amos Lee wrote and dedicated a song to Richard and Demi
The singer-songwriter penned a song called “The Lucky Ones” specifically for the father and daughter hosts on Mother’s Day, recalling that he’d been raised by a single mother. As Lee said before starting the acoustic song, “I was raised by a single mother in Philly. My mom is my hero, but I didn’t have a dad around very much. So when I watch this zoom, and see your daughter on your shoulder, it’s so touching to me. It makes me sad because I miss my family so much, but I’m so happy to be a part of yours.”