By  on October 1, 2007

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Macy's Passport celebrated its 25th anniversary here with star power to spare, namely Dame Elizabeth Taylor.

The gala show and auction Thursday night featured music, dance and plenty of fashion, The event, along with another gala in San Francisco on Sept. 20, raised a total of $2 million for AIDS/HIV services, prevention and research. Since its inception, Macy's Passport has raised $25 million.

To kick things off in the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport, Hollywood icon Taylor received the first Macy's Passport Humanitarian Award from Macy's West chairman and chief executive officer Robert Mettler. Wearing a silver lamé Naeem Khan dress and more than 50 carats of House of Taylor diamonds, the 75-year-old Oscar winner, who has used a wheelchair in recent years, walked to a seat on the stage where she addressed the 2,000 guests.

"I'm so grateful for this award that I'm out of breath," she said, then paused, adding, "but the Teleprompter's not on, and for this I am not grateful."

Eventually, Taylor got back on track, telling the audience, "You don't need an award to be or not to be an activist and humanitarian. I was at the first Passport, I was here last year and I will continue to be here and join this fight until we defeat the enemy of HIV and AIDS. The most powerful weapon of all is hope."

Taylor stressed the importance of educating the younger generation about the disease. "Let them know this can and does happen to all people,'' she said. "Silence breeds shame."

Among the young stars in attendance was a Calvin Klein-clad Emmy Rossum, who is an ambassador for the Youth AIDS foundation.

"It's important for a younger generation to be involved,'' she said. "That's where AIDS is striking and that's scary that it's affecting girls my age. It could be me, so I think that's why it's so important to get involved."

MAC Cosmetics chief John Demsey presented a $30,000 check to the Empower African Children fund to benefit AIDS orphans in Uganda. "Macy's is a very important part of our business, and Bob [Mettler] has really taken Passport to another level,'' Demsey said. "In the nine years since MAC has been a part of Passport, we've donated almost $1 million to its organizations."After the accolades, Mettler declared, "Let's get this party started," and models paraded down the runway for nine segments, including collections from Mark Ecko, Calvin Klein, Via Spiga, Levi's and designs by students of San Francisco's Academy of Art. Previous Passport designers such as Tracy Reese, Anna Sui, Michael Kors, Elie Tahari and Tommy Hilfiger also designed one-of-a-kind silver dresses to commemorate the silver anniversary.

For the evening's finale, MAC Viva Glam spokesmodel Dita Von Teese performed her signature Champagne glass routine with a new costume.

"It has about 300,000 Swarovski crystals and weighs about 70 pounds, which obviously gets lighter as the show goes on as I shed pieces," she said. "People love the Champagne glass so it's important for me to do what I can do to breathe life into these numbers."

Mettler said his secret to reinventing Passport after 25 years was passion. "We have people who love what they do and know that it is part entertainment, but that it's all for an important cause. They're so into it, and that drives them."

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