Elizabeth Taylor, Bill Clinton and Diane von Furstenberg were honored by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) last Wednesday.
The black-tie benefit marked amfAR’s 25th year, and featured a special reunion performance of “That’s What Friends Are For” by all of the original artists: Sir Elton John, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder. Also in recognition of amfAR’s 25 years, special tributes were made to the Foundation’s co-founders, Mathilde Krim, Ph.D and Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The evening was presented by Hublot, and co-sponsored by M*A*C Viva Glam. More than $1.5 million was raised for AIDS research.
President Bill Clinton, Diane von Furstenberg, and Dame Elizabeth Taylor were each presented with the amfAR Award of Courage for outstanding leadership and distinguished service in furthering amfAR’s mission, and for playing a vital role in increasing AIDS awareness and accelerating the pace of HIV/AIDS research. Ms. von Furstenberg was presented with her award by her husband, Barry Diller. Chelsea Clinton presented the award to her father. Sir Elton John delivered a personal message from Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who could not be in attendance, stating “I am there in spirit and I join you in saluting my fellow honorees and all these extraordinary leaders. I am inspired by their example, exhilarated by their vision, and encouraged by their compassion and love. And I love them in return.” Sir Elton accepted the award on her behalf.
Patti LaBelle introduced the featured performance of “That’s What Friends Are For.” This marked the first time since the 1980s that John, Knight, Warwick, and Wonder performed the hit together. The song was originally written by Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach, and released by Arista Records in 1985 as a benefit single for amfAR. The single reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1986 and has raised more than $3 million for the Foundation. The event also featured performances by violinist David Garrett and by Karen Elson, who sang a rendition of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”
Richard Gere opened the evening and introduced amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, who acknowledged the evening’s sponsors and supporters from the music, film, and fashion industries that have made substantial contributions to the Foundation’s success. Hublot CEO Jean-Claude Biver encouraged guests to “care and share” and emphasized the importance of the wealth of the heart. Rosie O'Donnell presented the tribute to amfAR Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim, calling Dr. Krim her hero and saying “It’s almost as if she was conjured up at precisely the right time and in the right place to lead the charge against this deadly virus.”
Also in attendance were Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, Carol Alt, Harry Belafonte, Alan Cumming, Helena Christensen, Nina Garcia, Michael C. Hall, Iman, Blake Lively, Kyle Maclachlan, Julianna Margulies, Al Roker, Liev Schreiber, Harvey Weinstein, Anna Wintour, Michelle Yeoh and many more.
Since 1998, amfAR’s New York Gala has been one of New York City’s most successful and high-profile AIDS benefits. The gala has raised more than $10 million in support of amfAR’s programs.