By Steve Baltin
A West Hollywood clothing store on a Sunday afternoon might not seem very rock & roll. But with Alice Cooper and Eddie Van Halen chatting in a corner, Billy Idol mugging for photos while his son DJ'd, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry cranking up Aerosmith's greatest hits, John Varvatos' WeHo storefront was arguably the most rocking spot in America this past weekend.
The occasion was Varvatos' 10th annual benefit for Stuart House, a facility to help children who have been sexually abused. With past performances including Chris Cornell, Dave Matthews, Cooper, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick and more, the event has become a tradition for rockers.
"We see all of our old friends. It's almost like the old love-ins," Cooper told Rolling Stone. "I just saw Eddie – first time I've seen him in 15 years. He looks great."
The curator of this little piece of rock history was designer Varvatos, who, in addition to being a fashion entrepreneur, has turned his diehard fandom into relationships with Matthews, Cornell, Perry Farrell and more. "John's cool, so he attracts cool," Tyler told Rolling Stone.
But the real impetus for Tyler and Perry to perform an hour-long set in the middle of the afternoon for celebrities like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (who were co-hosts for the event) was the Stuart House.
"It's about John's passion for children and this endeavor he's doing," said Tyler. "It's about the swept-under-the-rug thing with kids where they're so young, they don't know what's going on, they've been abused sexually and they think it's their fault, which is a travesty beyond travesties," he said.
Perry seconded his bandmate's testimony. "We have kids. We're parents ourselves," he said. "We read about kids that don't have the good fortune, and John's the kind of guy that when he hears about that stuff, he gets out there and does whatever he can to help them."
Tyler and Perry were "an immediate yes," said Varvatos, and they took the gig seriously. The night before, during dinner, Tyler told him, "We are going to blow your face off."
That they did, leading a makeshift supporting band through such Aerosmith classics as "Sweet Emotion," "Dream On," "Walk This Way" and their cover of the Beatles' "Come Together." For the finale Tyler said, "Where is that man? Somebody said Slash was in the audience." Before the guitarist could make his way to the stage, Tyler called out the crowd for being noisy. "As you can tell, this is a fucking L.A. audience," he yelled. "So fucking quiet!"
The audience responded to Tyler's challenge, matching the band's ferocity as Slash joined Tyler, Perry and friends for a raucous rendition of "Mama Kin." Just before walking off the stage out to Melrose Avenue, Tyler made sure to remind everyone caught up in the moment why they were there in the first place. "Let's hear it for the kids," he said. "Let me hear those wallets shake."