Entertainment behind the scenes
By Jan Paschal
Even Meryl Streep gets stage fright, or so she joked to the
star-studded crowd at amfAR’s New York Gala. Streep,
a two-time Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee for best actress
in “Julie & Julia,” wowed the black-tie audience at the American foundation for AIDS research by singing
a capella solo — after Lady Gaga’s dramatic performance.
“It really takes guts to get up and sing after Lady Gaga ,”
Streep said, warming up the room full of A-listers, who braved
a New York blizzard to get to the gala on the eve of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week . “We’ve got the sacred and the profane right here.”
That was a nod to Lady Gaga’s star turn in a white bikini
at the white baby grand piano, which she played while
belting out a bluesy romantic ballad, with a few expletives. Streep sang an Irish song called “The Parting Glass” in
tribute to her friend, the late Natasha Richardson , the Tony
Award-winning actress and amfAR trustee, who died
last March after a skiing accident.
Streep’s clear contralto voice rang out over the hushed room
and prompted many to brush away tears, including Natasha’s
mother, the actressVanessa Redgrave , who is perhaps the
best-known member of Britain’s theater royalty.
Redgrave told Reuters that she had asked Streep to sing as
part of the gala’s tribute to her daughter, who had
raised millions for AIDS research over the past decade by
dreaming up events such as a charity auction of Oscar dresses.
“It was lovely, wasn’t it?” Redgrave said, adding that Streep
chose the song.
The event raised between $1.1 million and $1.2 million for
AIDS research, a record for a single amfAR gala, an amfAR
Among the guests: The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson , who
told Reuters she’ll be keeping an eye out for “a bit of madness”
on New York’s fashion runways; actress Zoe Saldana of Oscar-nominated film “Avatar “ in a
Louis Vuitton dress with a short full skirt and open back;
actress Sigourney Weaver of “Avatar” in a black turtleneck
evening look; actor Alan Cumming sans tux jacket, madly
working his BlackBerry after the house lights came up; actor James Gandolfini (late of “God of Carnage” on Broadway and HBO’s “The Sopranos”) and IMG Fashion’s senior vice president Fern Mallis , the woman
who runs the tents in Bryant Park, gamely snapping a
couple’s picture on their camera, as the evening wrapped up.
Saldana, when asked which trends she’ll be watching for on New York’s fashion runways over the next week, told Reuters that “I hope with the influence of ‘Avatar’ that designers will be inspired to use more organic fabrics.”
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, famous for her chilly demeanor, surprised the black-tie crowd at amfAR’s New York Gala with her warm introduction of New York designer Donna Karan, an amfAR honoree, on Thursday night. The event packed Cipriani on 42nd Street on the eve of New York Fashion Week.
Wintour recalled how years ago, “Donna enlisted the Calvin Kleins and the Ralph Laurens” and the rest of the Council of Fashion Designers of America to band together to fight AIDS, the disease that devastated the fashion industry in the 1980s. Out of that came the Seventh on Sale benefit and other work to raise money for AIDS research to find a cure.
“Everyone refers to Donna as an earth mother,” Wintour said. “When we go to visit her, she feeds us, drapes us in fabric and tells us about her latest cause.”
Actress Natasha Richardson told the crowd how touched she was by “hearing Anna speak with such heart and passion, this so-called ice queen of fashion.”
Karan, in a one-shoulder black gown, said thatafter seeing “all these designers dropping right in front of us” more than 20 years ago, she had to do something.
Liza Minnelli, also honored by amfAR, got a standing ovation after she sang. She wore a brown sequined tunic and leggings designed by amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole. Among the celebrities there were Harry Belafonte, Dick Cavett and Mario Cantone.
A Louis Vuitton vanity case, designed by actress Sharon Stone, was among items auctioned for amfAR by Jamie Niven, chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America. “Not much room for underpants,” he joked, holding up the case — a wink to Stone’s star turn in “Basic Instinct.”