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Macy’s Passport Set to Celebrate Two Decades

LOS ANGELES — Macy’s Passport hits 20 tonight and what started as a simple men’s fashion show has now evolved into a multinight "fashion and compassion" extravaganza in San Francisco and here, raising millions of dollars for AIDS...

LOS ANGELES — Macy’s Passport hits 20 tonight and what started as a simple men’s fashion show has now evolved into a multinight “fashion and compassion” extravaganza in San Francisco and here, raising millions of dollars for AIDS causes.

Elizabeth Taylor and Earvin “Magic” Johnson return for their 15th and seventh year, respectively — Dame Taylor playing host to the black-tie gala in San Francisco Thursday night, while the retired basketball superstar hosts a ball for American Express members on Friday. Both are at the Festival Pavilion.

Yet, tonight, 3,000 Bay Area teens who’ve received tickets through high schools and youth agencies will be angling to get a closer look of hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari, as well as 4 Deep and Yasmeen at what’s being billed as Microsoft Teen Night. The concert, at the Fort Mason Center, follows a fashion show with Ecko Unlimited, Tracy Reese, Nike, Hugo Boss, RIPS, Wonderbra, Iceberg, Macy’s private label I.N.C. and MAC Viva Glam.

That’s a far cry from the first event in 1982. That men’s fashion show held in the Macy’s West employee cafeteria in San Francisco has evolved into a showcase for men’s, women’s and children’s wear.

“I said, ‘Who’s going to come to an all-men’s fashion show?’” recalled Bette McKenzie, vice president of Macy’s West public relations, involved since the start.

Since 1994, the event has annually pulled in close to $2 million and some 15,000 attendees. “I was such a fool,” she said. “It’s great being able to admit it.” To date, the events have raised a total of $15 million for HIV/AIDS medical research.

To commemorate the anniversary, Macy’s and its 16-year cosponsor American Express and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation have built an overlook above San Francisco’s National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. It will serve as a platform for viewing and meditation.

The events at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif., begin Sept. 27 with the teen night, and a red-carpet gala set for Sept. 28.

This story first appeared in the September 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.