Hawn at amfAR in Rio: AIDS Fight Must Go On

Oscar-winning actress and Linda Evangelista lead Rio’s first amfAR Inspiration Gala

Hawn amfAR Rio: AIDS Fight Must
photo by kevin tachman

RIO DE JANEIRO – Goldie Hawn, amfAR ambassador at its inaugural Inspiration Gala Rio, said the fight against HIV/AIDS must go on.

Conceived and produced by Josh Wood Productions, the Inspiration Gala helped raise $600,000 for amfAR research.

“I was there when AIDS first showed its ugly head. And I lost some of my best friends. It was the scariest time I can remember. I never thought we would find anything able to save these lives,” she told a packed black tie dinner benefit, speaking from its rostrum.

“Elizabeth Taylor was a friend,” she continued in reference to the co-founder of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which funds AIDS research programs.

“She never gave up. When you can see something is not being done you can fight almost to the death to make a change. We now have drugs that mean people can live relatively normal lives. But we’re not eradicating it.”

Dressed in a free-flowing yellow gown that – unlike most dinner guests, who chose rigorous black – did pick up on contempo Brazilian fashion designs, and looking way younger than her years, Hawn was serious when delivering her speech as co-Honorary Chair.

Yet once a comedian, always a comedian: Her innately comic vein surfaced as she posed for the paparazzi in the entrance to the gala, when a security guard unwittingly stood on her gown, near ripping it from her shoulders. Hawn pouted in mock-comic girl-in-peril surprise.

Linda Evangelista hosted the event, winning the best plaudit of the night from amFAR chairman Kenneth Cole, who thanked her for flying down from the U.S. describing her as a “the extremely iconic global beautiful individual of all times.” No less.

Like Hawn, Cole, whose drive and enthusiasm has helped anfAR invest more than $366 million in research since its inception in 1985, also put the fight against HIV/AIDS in perspective.

“This is an important time in the history of HIV/AIDS. Just a few years ago, few believed we would see a cure for this devastating virus in our life times,” he said from the rostrum.

He continued: “However today, right before our eyes, we are a witnessing today the transformation of a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition, most of which is due to AIDS research and much of that is due to amFAR-funded aids research.”

That said, there are still 35 million HIV/AIDS sufferers around the world.

Cole also introduced a clip from the “The Battle of amfAR,” from Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“The Celluloid Closet”). Premiering at the Rio Festival Oct. 3, it records how that odd couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Swiss researcher Mathilde Krim, launched amfAR, the first U.S. AIDS research foundation, at a time when AIDS was regarded as an epidemic.

Hosting the event, Evangelista addressed the dinner in very clear, paused English. That had a larger significance. All the speakers and auction-leaders, actresses Fernanda Torres and Mariana Ximenes, spoke in English to guests who were largely Brazilian.

At the auction, the biggest tussle of the night was fought over a package donated by Moet & Chandon, featuring tickets to the French Roland Garros tennis semifinals and a stay at the Chateau de Saran, the estate of the Moet family in Epernay, France. With Evangelista offering to autograph a gold-leaf Moët & Chandon Imperial Jeroboam also in the package, it sold for $30,000.

But most of the auction prizes were Brazilian, from Carla Amorim emerald earrings to dervish earrings from Silvia Furmanovich and, in modern art, a large wood and fabric plate with two holes in it, which sparked table tattle, from Rio bio abstract minimalist artist Ernesto Neto.

Presented by MAC VIVA GLAM, the Gala climaxed with a performance by Preta Gil, who was joined on stage by Ana Carolina.

Also an Inspiration Gala speaker, Rio Festival co-director Ilda Santiago reminded diners that at the main film festivals around the world, “the presence of an amfAR benefit has become a major, essential and expected benefit.”

She added: “We believe Brazil and Rio Film Festival can be good working partners in this common battle against HIV/AIDS.”

Part of the Gala proceeds will go to Rio AIDS org Pela Vidda, Cole said.

Brazil used to be just on the receiving end of charity. Now, far more moneyed, and fast joining the internatinal world, it is giving back.