Given the current poo-pooing of large-scale fundraisers and the penny-pinching being felt from New York to L.A., Thursday night's amfAR gala at Cipriani 42nd Street was a resounding success - no doubt made the more so by the honorees, which included Liza Minnelli, Donna Karan, and Dallas-based philanthropists Howard and Cindy Rachofsky. "I hope Liza remembers when she came to our Two x Two gala in Dallas and brought to tears 70 gay men singing 'New York, New York,'" Rachofsky, in vintage Lily et Cie, laughed.
Helping to toast the evening's special guests, not to mention dazzle the crowds in their finest black-tie wares, were other staunch AIDS activists, including Maggie Rizer (in Gucci), Taylor Momsen (Marchesa), Eliza Dushku (Kaufman Franco), Rose Byrne (Louis Vuitton), and Natasha Richardson and Mary J. Blige, both of whom were resplendent in Donna Karan. "They always bring me on to give all the informational stuff," quipped Richardson. "I'm unofficially the official amfAR numbers girl."
Noted singers Renee Olstead and Joan Osbourne entertained the capacity crowd, which included David Yurman, Harry Belafonte, Gaby Karan de Felice, Stanley Tucci, and Kenneth Cole, in between courses while a slew of eye candy models - Lily Donaldson (in Balenciaga), Lara Stone (Alexander Wang), Anja Rubik (J. Mendel) - swilled cocktail by the bar, waiting until the very last moment to take their seats. "We were housemates in the Hamptons," explained Caroline Winberg's choice of wearing a somewhat more casual Sari Gueron cocktail dress.
Michelle Monaghan, for her part, did a quick switcheroo - out of her Calvin Klein dress and into tribal Louis Vuitton (the evening's grand benefactor) - while in transit from one event to the next. "Breastfeeding was the secret; that and weights," the actress revealed as her secret to losing the weight she put on while pregnant with now three-month-old daughter Willow. Monaghan, who's taking a break from new film projects to concentrate on being a mother, has a film coming out this summer called Trucker - which she said she had to get a tractor trailer driver's license in order to film. "If I had had a son, he'd really appreciate it!" she laughed.
In between award presentations to Karan and the Rachofsky's, a live auction emceed by Sotheby's Jamie Niven raked in $60,000. What's more, Cole got on stage as he introduced Minnelli and, in true impromptu fashion, offered 20 guests willing to fork over $5,000 for a special Cartier Love "amfAR edition" bracelet the change to get their picture taken with the legendary songstress - that, and a performance by Minnelli herself. Talk about a Valentine's Day hurrah - by the end of the evening, over $800,000 was raised.
was born in Brussels, Belgium and grew up in Paris before moving to New York City. For the past four and a half years, Shi was fashion news editor of IMG's fashion and media industry publication The Daily and editor of its sister web site, Fashion Week Daily. He has covered Fashion Weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris.
PHOTOS BY PATRICK MCMULLAN