The heavy snowfall and piles of slush lining streets Wednesday night were no match for the annual amfAR New York Gala, sponsored by MAC Cosmetics, which drew scores of celebrities to Cipriani 42nd Street for a black-tie benefit.
“I’m from Scotland; it’s not that big a blizzard,” said Alan Cumming, who was sporting a specially designed pair of rubber boots by Kenneth Cole, amfAR’s chairman and one of the event’s chairs.
This story first appeared in the February 12, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Many of the women in attendance with their treacherous heels would have begged to differ.
“I stepped out of my house, and I almost took a spill,” said Chloë Sevigny. “Luckily, the maintenance guy was out shoveling and he walked me to my car.”
But for guests like Sevigny, as well as Cheyenne Jackson; event chair John Demsey; Sigourney Weaver; Joely Richardson; Julianna Margulies; Cynthia Nixon; Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York; Zoe Saldana; Zoë Kravitz, and Brooke Shields, celebrating amfAR’s work for AIDS research clearly trumped any potential winter wipeouts.
Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Yves Carcelle was honored for his dedication, which started 10 years ago when Sharon Stone approached him about designing a cosmetic bag for charity. “We [work with charities] all over the world, but really this big success of the collaboration with Sharon and amfAR was the starting point of our action worldwide.”
(Later, while presenting Carcelle with an amfAR Award of Courage, Glenda Bailey said, “Saying Yves has been a success for Vuitton is like saying Peter Marino wears leather.”)
Rufus Wainwright sang a few subdued ballads for the crowd, and then Lady Gaga sang a not-so-subdued ballad. “Won’t you be my fu-fu-fu-fu-future man? I want to fu-fu-fu-f–k you as hard as I can,” belted out the star, who wore a white bikini and played a Terence Koh-designed piano on a rotating stage.
After her performance, in which she also sipped from a teacup and spit something gravelly on an undressed mannequin, Gaga accepted an Award of Courage on behalf of the absent Sir Elton John and David Furnish. “Here to accept the award as a symbol of the [Elton John AIDS] foundation’s commitment to whole generations from the past to the present and the future is Elton and David’s great new friend Lady Gaga,” said Ingrid Sischy in a heartfelt tribute to John’s AIDS relief efforts around the world.
At times, the crowd showed its motley colors, like during the live auction when James Gandolfini egged on Ashley Olsen in her bidding.
But the evening ended on a tender note, with a special tribute to the late Natasha Richardson, a longtime and fearless champion of amfAR.
AmfAR’s founding chair, Dr. Mathilde Krim, spoke to Richardson’s dedication and spirit, before her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, read from Liz Smith’s 1992 write-up of an amfAR benefit Richardson organized. “It was Ms. Richardson who truly moved the crowd. She said, ‘You know John Guare has written that there are six degrees of separation between every human being. My father, Tony Richardson, died last year from AIDS. I realized there was no longer any degree of separation between me and this disease,’” read Redgrave, who concluded with her own words to her daughter. “Darling Natasha, I am so proud of your courage, your hard work, your total commitment and your beautiful, life-giving, laughing spirit, thank you.”
Then Meryl Streep took to the stage.
“I was going to sing an Irish song for Liam [Neeson]. He is not here. So I’m gonna sing an Irish song for Tash and for everybody else who isn’t here tonight,” she said, before launching into a moving rendition of “The Parting Glass.”