BEVERLY HILLS — Perhaps it was the presence of Tom Ford in the audience, but Saks Fifth Avenue’s Unforgettable Evening cancer benefit on Tuesday night — usually so forgettable fashion-wise — made a major style statement this year. It also could have been the heightened fashionista status of co-founder Jamie Tisch since becoming a Manhattan transfer last year, or Hollywood’s collective sigh to finally be finished with all those Oscar loaners. This gazillionaire crowd was much more in the “I bought it” camp than the “I borrowed it” one.

Rita Wilson and Kelly Lynch both showed up in the same 12-year-old Richard Tyler slipdress, and fresh Angeleno socials Colleen Bell and Gwen McCaw mined their wardrobes for a new Lanvin dress and a vintage Yves Saint Laurent smoking, respectively. Lisa Kudrow, usually so tame, made a va-va-voom transformation in a J. Mendel sheath that Tisch chose for her personally. Marchesa duo Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman arrived with Claudia Schiffer in their gown. Even Ford showed up in new duds that he’d designed, albeit for himself only — a teal velvet tux he had his London tailor stitch up from his sketch.

“It’s Tom Ford for Tom Ford,” he quipped.

Barbara Davis and Kelly Meyer, a co-founder, with Tisch, of Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Women’s Cancer Research Fund, like many other guests, pulled their own ample jewels to wear that night. Of course, since this year’s honoree was Lance Armstrong, the room was filled with more yellow plastic LiveStrong bracelets than anything else.

“I agonized over what jewels to wear tonight,” said Armstrong’s girlfriend Sheryl Crow. “Then I come here and we’re all wearing the same damn accessory!”

The cyclist stayed a half-hour after the event ended to sign nearly all of them. “Women have made it cool to talk about breasts and ovaries, so I’m trying to do the same for testicles and prostates, but it’s not so easy,” he said.

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Armstrong’s moving, unscripted speech left the Hollywood crowd breathless and teary, prompting some to remark that Oscar night speeches paled in comparison. But, of course, the Hollywood machine is always churning — “Million Dollar Baby” producer Al Ruddy, still on cloud nine with his wife, Giorgio Armani’s Wanda McDaniel, received continual slaps on the back, while movie moguls were quick to outbid each other for an Armstrong-signed racing bike and a ride with the Tour de France champ and his pal Robin Williams. The price tag escalated to $70,000.

Tisch acted fast: “We actually have two bikes!” she erupted. Five seconds later, auctioneer Tom Hanks announced, “Great, we’ve just made $140,000 in five minutes. Let’s see how much we can get for the pen that Lance used to sign them.” It went for another $5,000 to the “Polar Express” star himself.

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