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SAN FRANCISCO — What does it take to make Danielle Steel cry? Surprise guest Sidney Poitier appeared on stage at last Saturday’s Star Ball here, and eloquently paid tribute to her generosity and grit in supporting teenage mental health. “I’m completely undone,” said Steel, through her tears.

The ball was a benefit for the Nick Traina Foundation, founded in memory of Steel’s son. Chums — including Al Gore, Jackie Collins, George Hamilton and Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne — gathered in the Ritz-Carlton hotel ballroom and listened raptly as Poitier described Steel’s many loving friends as her “pillows in times of stress.” Other Steel supporters included Vanessa Getty, Stephan Jenkins, OJ Shansby, Beth Townsend, Karen Caufield and Mary Ann Mobley.

Steel, in major Gem Palace diamond necklaces and bracelets, took her son, Maxx, 19, on stage for emotional support while she thanked guests who had come from around the world for the biennial event. Steel later noted that she usually wore her baubles with a white T-shirt rather than couture gowns. “It’s so chic to downplay major jewels,” she said.

Victoria Traina, a fashion student at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, helped style her younger sister, Zara, 18, in a sleek, steel gray chiffon Lanvin gown for the event. “She’s more into music than fashion,” observed Victoria, who has attended Paris couture shows with their mother since she was five years old.

After Sir Elton John‘s rousing one-hour performance on stage, the younger crowd headed for Otis lounge and Tosca bar, where they played pool with Mayor Gavin Newsom and his curvy new squeeze, actress Sofia Milos. Meanwhile, Russian-born Tatiana Sorokko, in a pale blue chiffon Ralph Rucci couture gown, headed for midnight Easter services at the Russian Orthodox cathedral.

This story first appeared in the April 25, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I covered my gown in Ralph’s silk velvet cloak,” noted Sorokko. “I didn’t want anyone to think I’d turned up in my nightdress.”

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