“Los Angeles, you’ve got me sweating!” Justin Timberlake told the crowd of more than 1,300 people at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar as he loosened his collar during a packed set at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles 2022 Gala on Saturday night.
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But even though he was overheated, he was still trying to keep things elegant at the black-tie fundraiser. “Bro. Don’t be that guy,” he told a man in the crowd loudly suggesting he could cool down by taking his shirt off. “I love you too, but I’m not taking my shirt off. We all got dressed up. This is a classy event.”
Timberlake kept the mood celebratory as CHLA raised a record $5.5 million-plus from the event, hosted by the father-son actor duo of Robert and Chris Pine. It was the first time the hospital has been able to host a gala since 2019, so they wanted to do it big for their grand return. Thanks to JT’s “sister from another mister” Nikki DeLoache — fellow All-New Mickey Mouse Club alum and chair of the CHLA Foundation Board of Trustees — the pop superstar was just a call away.
“I just called him and I asked, and he said yes!” DeLoache told Billboard on the red carpet before introducing her decades-long friend’s performance. “I’m humbled and I’m honored to be here tonight, and if you ever want me back to sing for my supper, you know how to get me — just call Nikki,” Timberlake laughed onstage later.
Throughout the night, it was clear that anyone with a personal connection to the hospital feels compelled to keep its mission alive after experiencing CHLA’s care first-hand — like DeLoache, whose son Bennett has undergone multiple open-heart surgeries at CHLA, or Timberlake and wife Jessica Biel, whose niece Zaya had a life-saving heart surgery at the hospital.
Also in attendance: Jimmy Kimmel, whose now-5-year-old son Billy had open-heart surgeries as an infant at CHLA. “It’s nice to do something to support a great organization like Children’s Hospital,” Kimmel said on the red carpet. “It’s even better when Justin Timberlake is singing at it. They don’t get that in Cleveland.” Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus – who fought stage 4 lymphoma and is now cancer-free – and his wife Skye have supported CHLA even before his own health issues; now, he tells Billboard, “Going through what I went through as an adult with a lifetime of experience, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a kid going through something so scary awful.”
Friends star Matt LeBlanc started visiting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles when he starred on CBS’ Man With the Plan, and now he’s a huge supporter of their cause to provide the same level of care to all families, regardless of financial ability. Just don’t ask him to hit the stage with Timberlake: “They don’t want to see me sing,” he quipped on the carpet. LA’s KOST 103.5 host and CHLA trustee Ellen K recalled welcoming Timberlake to the KIIS-FM studio back in the late ’90s. “Justin Timberlake came to the radio in braces with *NSYNC when he was 16 and just starting. I let him drive my car,” she remembered with a laugh. “He had his permit, and his mother gave permission. I played mom and drove my car with some of the boys of *NSYNC and then I did my interview. … It’s good to see Justin again – without braces.”
Timberlake really came through for the gala, performing for almost 40 minutes, with his band billed as Justin Timberlake & The Undercovers. The “covers” part made sense, given the standards and soul classics JT pulled out for the one-night-only set, including American Songbook favorites like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Smile,” a mash-up of Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” with Al Green’s “Love & Happiness,” Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” into Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” and an interlude of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” tucked into his “Can’t Fight the Feeling!” finale.
“My kids have not had the need to be at CHLA,” Timberlake said onstage. “I think about all the lives that all of you saved, and I just want you to know that y’all are not unnoticed – especially to a father like me to a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old.”
Find Timberlake’s full setlist for the night below:
The Way You Look Tonight
Suit & Tie
Knocks Me Off My Feet / Love and Happiness
Can’t Fight the Feeling / Lovely Day