The ‘70s and all of its fabulous splendor returned to New York City’s downtown architectural gem Cipriani Wall Street Monday night, where a roster of celebrity guests flocked for the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s 14th Annual “An Enduring Vision” benefit gala. Dressed in an embellished black tuxedo blazer with his signature tinted round-shaped glasses, John arrived hand in hand with husband and the foundation's chairman David Furnish.
“Get tested. Know your status and come out with it. Don’t be afraid anymore,” John told reporters of the sexually transmitted disease. “It’s not a death sentence. You live with it… People used to die of HIV, now you live with it.” John’s encouraging words resonated throughout the evening and helped set a festive mood for the star-studded fundraising event. “My mom actually took me to Studio 54 when I was 11,” joked host Anderson Cooper (below) as he welcomed the audience, moments after disco hits like “I Want Your Love” blasted during the Old Fashioned-riddled cocktail hour.
Inside, guests including former All My Children star Susan Lucci (below), Today Show host Matt Lauer, and actor Matthew Morrison stunned in their best interpretations of black tie attire. “I did pull it out of my closet, actually I did!” Lucci told InStyle of her dazzling ivory Donna Karan dress and J. Mendel fur stole, adding, “I looked around, I didn’t see anything I liked better.” The 68-year-old star was “very anxious” to see John and Furnish (“He’s so powerful and wonderful,” she said of the legendary performer) and also shared a piece of advice for women everywhere: “Achieve your dreams and go for it!”
The evening’s positive message clearly stuck. More than $3.3 million were raised for the foundation, which helps create HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, and awareness programs in the U.S, thanks to a silent auction that included a David LaChapelle photograph of John himself, a bottle of Champagne HATT et SÖNER, and artist Tracey Emin’s (one of the night’s Enduring Vision awards honorees) neon-lit “You Made Me Feel Beautiful Again” piece.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your support of the Elton John Aids Foundation. It is astonishing to think about how much the world has changed in the past year. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. President Obama appointed the first transgender staffer at the White House. Legislators are finally beginning to talk about prison reform. It’s been an amazing year,” John told his guests. “As we continue to fight this epidemic and the injustice behind it, we must remember one thing. Every one of these people is an individual, a person with a story, a person deserving of love, compassion, and dignity. I want to think you for believing in our vision of an AIDS-free future and for supporting it with you generous donations and your extraordinary compassion.”
Between moving speeches and a stream of unsettling statistics about the victims of the disease, long-time friends and just acquainted stars mingled. Cooper joined Bravo TV personality Andy Cohen (above, right) and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi (above, center) for a photograph, while multi-hyphenate chef Sandra Lee and Transparent star Judith Light chatted as well. “The pattern and the fabric I absolutely adored and, you know, we’re looking at this new kind of width of pant leg and isn’t it spectacular?” Light said of her matching Zac Posen jacket and culottes with Verdura jewels. As for the hit show’s return, she added, “It’s such an extraordinary show. I’m about to see some of it. I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve seen little bits of it and it’s so special.”
As dinner and the auction came to an end, guests couldn’t help but get on their feet as ‘70s favorite KC and the Sunshine Band took the stage to perform hits like “Shake Shake Shake.” “I’m a nervous wreck! I’ll be alright once the music starts playing and once I’m up there it’s like I’m home,” lead singer Harry Wayne Casey told InStyle. It was a hit, indeed.