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“I’m getting lucky tonight,” Sting laughed as a flock of New York socials writhed around him on stage at the Waldorf-Astoria Thursday night, where the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Research Foundation was holding its annual gala.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

He may have been under the weather, but one would never know it from the energetic performance of hits he gave to a crowd of 1,100, including “Fields of Gold” and “Roxanne.” During “Desert Rose,” he invited “all of the ladies in the room tonight” up on stage to dance with him, resulting in a virtual stampede. Not that there was any hanky-panky: his wife, Trudie Styler, also attended. As did Abigail Breslin, Carolyn Murphy, Miss USA Rime Fakih, Kelly Rutherford, Marjorie Gubelmann, Lizzie Tisch and husband Jonathan Tisch and Coralie Charriol Paul.

“Elton [John] is such a dear friend and so kind and generous himself with this that even if I felt sick it didn’t really matter,” Sting said backstage.

John revved up the crowd himself with a rousing version of “Your Song,” among other numbers. He then introduced Sting: “My dearest and most treasured friend Sting is so sick, but refused not to come,” said John. “He’s in a terrible state. I’m the reserve act, if something happens.”

While the stage set was being prepared for Sting — John played his trademark piano, while Sting played guitar — Lauder, clad in pink Oscar de la Renta, decided to try her hand at stand-up comedy to fill the time. After gamely making two jokes, she laughed and asked, “How much will you bid if I don’t make any more jokes?” She also congratulated John and his partner, David Furnish, on the birth of their son, Zachary. Backstage, John was proudly showing pictures of the infant on his iPad to a rapt audience that included Lauder, Donna Karan, Sting, Styler and Elizabeth Hurley.

Karan offered to play Brenda Starr, agreeing to try to wrest a quote from John, with whom she was sitting for the dinner. Grabbing a tape recorder, she inquired, “What should I ask?” Hurley, in J. Mendel, discussed her next project. “I just shot a pilot for ‘Wonder Woman’ for NBC,” she said. “Fingers crossed.” She’s also busily opening pop-up stores for her Elizabeth Hurley Beach line and “hoping to spend some time soon at my farm.”

Leonard Lauder offered business truisms to the group, advice he often offers aspiring executives. “If you’re mad at someone, never put it in writing,” he said. “Tell them to their face. And never punish a retailer. They have long memories.”

The evening raised $4.3 million, a record for the event, which has raised more than $350 million since the foundation was founded 17 years ago. Part of the proceeds were raised with a spirited auction by Deborah Norville and Christie’s Lydia Fenet, with one lot — an invite to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party — going for $50,000. A stay at Karan’s Turks & Caicos home fetched $60,000.

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