The tag team game alternated between politically incorrect jokes from Handler (calling amfAR chairman of the board and designer Kenneth Cole “Jewy”) and aggressive fundraising techniques from Stone (kissing audience members to elicit higher bids).
“It’s always nice to have an evening where we have an excuse to get together and drink, even if it is for AIDS,” Handler said at the fourth annual American Foundation for AIDS Research event. “I hosted this event last year and I was sure that they wouldn’t ask me back and then they did so I’m going to try and make this the last time.”
Since 1985, the org has funded and advocated for AIDS research, HIV prevention and treatment education. In case you were confused by the plot of Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Dallas Buyers Club,” there is no cure for HIV.
“A lot of people think that this is a fight that has been fought and already won or that AIDS is only a problem in other countries or that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto cured AIDS down in Texas, but they didn’t,” Handler said, leaving the crowd at Los Angeles’ Milk Studios in stitches.
Then came her unfiltered and self-insulting introduction of Stone.
“I have a lot in common with Sharon because we both accidentally showed our vaginas and became famous,” the “Chelsea Lately” host said. “Hers was in a movie, mine wasn’t.”
When Stone, amfAR’s global fundraising chairman who received the Nobel Peace Summit Award from the Dalai Lama in October for her work in fighting the epidemic, took over to honor Aileen Getty, the tone shifted drastically in the room. Elizabeth Taylor was amfAR’s founding national chairman and one of the first public figures to advocate for people with HIV/AIDS. Getty, Taylor’s daughter-in-law, is living with AIDS.
“I often think that our destiny is written and it’s just with how much integrity we choose to meet it,” Stone said. “Aileen is a person whose destiny is unusual, peculiar almost: to have been married to a co-founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, extraordinary Elizabeth Taylor’s son, and then to have chosen at some point in her life to have unsafe sex and to have contracted AIDS. What are the chances?”
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Stone said Getty founded the org Gettlove in 2005 to find permanent housing for homeless and impoverished people in Hollywood.
“Imagine having such a difficult thing happen to you and that your choice is not to fall down, not to cave in, but to give,” Stone continued. “It demonstrates to me that it’s not how you fall. It’s how you get up. And to be in this community where so many of us, when we fall everyone rushes to see what it looks like, everyone rushes to point, to gloat, to point again. It’s amazing to be able to stand in the heat of that light and to get up with such courage, such decency, such profound goodness that I can only see deeply why Aileen was chosen to have this incredible dignity, this incredible destiny and this incredible journey.”
After her touching speech, Sharon teamed up with Christie’s Los Angeles’ president Andrea Fiuczynski to present a live auction. Instead of employing the rhythmic chant of a professional auctioneer, Stone made good use of her sex appeal.
“As you know, I’m famous for taking people’s cash — only the ones I don’t marry,” she said before stepping down into the crowd to sweet talk people into raising their bids.
“I can come down and make out with you for a minute,” Stone later said, putting her money where her mouth is by kissing an older male audience member to persuade him into doling out $40,000.
When Getty donated a million dollars at the end of the night, Stone returned to her fundraising podium. She initially asked the crowd for $500,000 (two people, including Getty’s sister, complied) then worked her way down to 100. “Does anyone want to give $2?” Handler later spoofed in a monotone voice. “$1.50?” The comedienne donated her $100,000 paycheck for hosting duties to the charity.
Handler knew from the onset that this was a giving audience, after all “someone last year gave me herpes,” the talk show host said.
Goldie Hawn, the last honoree of the night (the Hugo Boss company was also awarded), came full circle with her speech in which she stressed the importance of compassion, as exemplified by the legendary Taylor.
“Elizabeth Taylor was an example of someone who had a passion, who was inspired to create change fearlessly,” Hawn said. “I don’t think any of us should go without that in our lifetime. Because as you grow up, as you grow out and as your grow older, you will realize that the one thing in your life is passion and inspiration.”
Hawn’s partner Kurt Russell and son Oliver Hudson were on-hand for support. Grace Jones, who performed in a leotard that put Miley Cyrus’ wardrobe to shame, Lily Tomlin, Alessandra Ambrosio, Kelly Osbourne, Laura Prepon and Jacki Weaver were among the other celebs in attendance.