LOS ANGELES — Dame Elizabeth Taylor was a no-show, but the absence of ol’ violet eyes, as well as other celebrities, didn’t affect the fund-raising at the five-day Macy’s and American Express Passport 2002 Fashion and Compassion event, which ended here last Saturday.

Organizers call it one of the most lucrative events since the AIDS/HIV fund-raiser and fashion gala was founded 20 years ago. Close to $2 million was raised for research, according to Macy’s officials, with attendance reaching 14,000 over the five nights — three in San Francisco and two in Los Angeles.

Even though Taylor, the event’s founding chair, had to bow out due to an ankle injury, and co-chair Earvin "Magic" Johnson made only one appearance due to a Basketball Hall of Fame induction, the show went on. Actress Annette Bening stepped in at Saturday’s gala here, albeit with a sobering message. She admonished young women, ages 15 to 24, for currently being one of the largest at-risk groups for HIV infection.

But the event’s success lies in its mix of the serious with entertainment. Acrobatic athletes showed Nike’s new sports apparel, scantily dressed models and amazons bared new Wonderbras. Other featured lines were Ecko Unltd., Iceberg, Tracy Reese, Hugo Boss men’s wear and Macy’s private label I.N.C.

MAC’s Viva Glam Circus, the creation of Philip Ing, MAC’s creative director, delivered a Cirque du Soleil-type finale. Colorful clowns, stilt-walkers and a whip-cracking, mustached ringmaster were joined by four nearly nude dancer-gymnasts, who spun in unison on a large steel globe suspended from the ceiling.

"It’s hard to believe that we’ve now been producing Passport for 20 years," Robert Mettler, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s West, said at the gala at Fort Mason in San Francisco. "At the beginning, we thought it would be for just a year, then a few years, until a cure was found. $15 million later, we are still going."

Mettler noted he was especially pleased with individual and corporate generosity this year. "The fact that we’ve raised almost $2 million this year, in hard economic times, says a great deal."The University of California at San Francisco, among the beneficiaries, is receiving $1.1 million over six years for its Center for Creative Therapies, which aims to develop advanced treatments for people with HIV.

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