First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg were honorees of the seventh annual AIDS Project L.A. fundraiser. Event alternated speeches by honorees and actors with dance and musical performances. But, save for presence of Bruce Springsteen (singing “Streets of Philadelphia”) and New York-based dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones, show might have been billed as “Night of 1,000 Divas.”
Ticket sales announced at top of evening totaled just under $ 5 million; merchandising of such items as $ 500+ AIDS awareness bracelets surely brought total up appreciably.
Speeches were given by Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand (bringing on Clinton: “For the first time in our history, we can imagine a woman president”). Other than introducing Katzenberg and Clinton, speechifying could have been kept down: People spending up to $ 1,000 to attend this benefit hardly need to be told that AIDS is a scourge. Musical perfs, on the other hand, were uniformly terrific, and nicely staged.
The evening was programmed to “celebrate the legacies” of various celebrity AIDS victims. Tributes ranged from Lauren Bacall’s winning tribute to designer Halston and Doris Day’s pretaped audio remembrance of Rock Hudson to fleeting or obscure references to many of the others: Freddie Mercury was represented by film clips of Queen in action, Robert Mapplethorpe by a montage of his photographs as Sarah Brightman sang from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Requiem.”
There were a few moments of camp value. Barry Diller, who opened the show, commented that studio execs were so happy that he wasn’t asking for multimillion-dollar investments in his attempted Paramount takeover when he phoned that they were thrilled to come up with a couple hundred thousand dollars for APLA.
Patti LuPone, of the “Sunset Boulevard” London cast, sang “As If We Never Said Goodbye” in the immediate presence of Streisand, whose recording of the song was released first; Jenifer Lewis opened her tribute to composer Paul Jabara with an offstage sound-alike version of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” announcing to an audience clearly expecting Summer that “they couldn’t get the bitch.”
Debbie Reynolds announced, “Here I am again, sharing something else with Elizabeth”– a funny line, but the house would have come down had Taylor come out to acknowledge that she, too, had been married to Eddie Fisher.
Musical accompaniment, by hard-working members of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under various conductors, was excellent; the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes danced a couple of numbers.
Show came in at a tight, intermissionless 2 3/4 hours.