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You pretty much know you’ve walked into the biggest event of fashion week when even the celebrities come armed with digital cameras. “It’s for my blog,” Martha Stewart said Wednesday night at the United Nations, where Madonna and Gucci were cohosting a benefit for Unicef and Raising Malawi. “People love to look at pictures.”

And there was plenty for people to see, from Madonna’s fellow Kabbalists (Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore), to her Scientology rivals (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), to the divas who would normally be considered competition (J.Lo and Gwen Stefani). Not to mention Donald Trump, Rosie O’Donnell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, Amy Adams, Debra Messing, Drew Barrymore, Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Donna Karan, Sandy Gallin, Russell Simmons, his soon-to-be ex-wife Kimora and her current paramour Djimon Hounsou. “It’s the cause, Madonna, Gucci and fashion week. You gotta make it,” said Diddy.

A giant tent opposite the main building of the United Nations had been Gucci-fied to the point where it was almost a surprise the food itself wasn’t slick and black. Organizing it had been no small feat, but Madonna was not surprised she’d managed to pull it off. “I had Gucci and Unicef on my side, so that helped. It’s pretty chic, isn’t it?”

It certainly was. The dresses were long, the speeches were longer, and the humor in them was largely unintended. (“People always ask me why I chose Malawi and I say I didn’t,” Madonna said. “It chose me.”) Still, it is hard to find much fault in anything that (or anyone who) raises $5.5 million to be split between Unicef and an impoverished African nation. And things really picked up after dinner with an auction cohosted by Chris Rock, who took to the stage and said, “Madonna called me up on the Madonna phone and asked me to the auction. I said, ‘Sounds good, but we should probably get a real auctioneer and then I’ll stand to his side like Flava Flav and say mean s–t to make people spend more money.’ By the way, under each chair tonight is a Malawian child. Everyone gets one.”

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

He was kidding, of course, but the people bidding were not. First up was a trip for two to Milan, with a four-night stay at the Four Seasons, personalized Gucci luggage and two tickets to the Gucci fashion show. It went for $60,000. Then came a package that included four tickets to the season finale of “American Idol,” lunches with Adam Sandler, Keri Russell and Zac Efron, and four tickets to Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards. As the bids reached $95,000, Rock said, “For $100,000, you can f–k Paula Abdul, too. At 95 all you get is Randy Jackson.” It sold for $95,000.

After that, the auction prices hit the stratosphere. Diller, Cruise, and Anna Wintour helped drive bids to the $100,000 mark, but they had nothing on the other hoi polloi who ended up winning. A trip to Paris and the Château Latour vineyard in France went for $120,000, followed by $320,000 for a sports package that included a meet-and-greet with A-Rod and an hour playing soccer with David Beckham. The last item on the block was a trip to New York, four VIP tickets to Madonna’s next concert, dance aerobics with her and Paltrow, and a private photo session with Steven Klein. It sold to a Japanese lingerie mogul named Mika Noguchi for $600,000. “I’m just glad I didn’t go for $40,000,” Madonna said at the end of the evening, before Rihanna, Timbaland and Alicia Keys performed mini concerts for the heavy-hitter crowd.

Lopez, Leon, Madonna AND Keys photos by Kevin Mazur/Wireimage; All Others by Steve Eichner

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