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First amfAR Hong Fund Raiser Assembles Stars, Collects $4 Million For AIDS Research

HONG KONG — With a limousine traffic jam, a pageant of stars, celebrities and catwalk models as a well-intentioned auction effort, the first fundraising event in Hong Kong for AIDS Research Foundation amfAR kicked off in familiar high style.

Michelle Yeoh as honoree and Gwyneth Paltrow as hostess had top billing, alongside leading Asian business woman Pansy Ho and Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham.

The extravaganza was held Saturday night in the Shaw Studios in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district and included a red carpet arrival, cocktails, dinner and auction — and the obligatory after-party.

In attendance was a largely business and corporate crowd, who paid upwards of US$2,580 (HK$20,000) per plate, and a stunning group of women who often towered over their male companions.

Speakers including Yeoh and amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole reminded the audience that the AIDS epidemic is still rampant in Asia – a problem worsened by poor education, discussion of sex as a social taboo and homophobia. Others spoke of amfAR’s campaign to find a cure for the 35 million currently infected by AIDS.

The auction of ceramics, paintings, Harry Winston jewelry and experiences netted over US$2 million. A painting, “Friend” by Chinese artist Jia Aili, was the single most expensive item, selling for US$550,000.

The sale of a day with Leonardo DiCaprio at another benefit event in St. Tropez in July was so successful that the auctioneers expanded the offer from one day to four when four bidders each agreed to pay US$250,000 for the pleasure of the superstar’s company.

Organizers reported that the evening’s final total was over $4 million.

Other stars and celebrities in attendance Saturday included Paris Hilton, Carina Lau, Archie Kao, Wendi Murdoch, Silas Chou, Alex Prager, David Tang, Joana Vasconcelos, Wyman Wong, and model Zhang Zilin.

The official part of the evening rounded off with a five song set by Robin Thicke. Significantly perhaps, he performed a succession of cover versions, before finishing with hit “Blurred Lines.”

And if he was downhearted by last week’s court verdict, which ruled that he had overstepped the line and borrowed too much from Marvin Gaye, it would be difficult to tell from his ebullient and charismatic showmanship. At one stage he stood on his piano. Later he jumped into the crowd to dance with Paltrow and assorted Hong Kong benefactors.

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