Sinéad O'Connor, Deborah Harry perform at amfAR gala
AmfAR's second annual Los Angeles Inspiration Gala returned to the Chateau Marmont on Thursday, bringing together a constellation of stars to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS -- and honor the organization's founding international chair, the late Elizabeth Taylor.
Among the bold-faced names that turned out for the event were Sean Penn, Colin Farrell, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Mackie, Rose McGowan and Selma Blair, with Sandra Bullock on hand to present a tribute -- and an award -- to Taylor.
(AmfAR , the Foundation for AIDS Research, had originally planned to present its Courage Award to the late actress at a February gala in New York City, but she wasn't well enough to accept it. Taylor passed away the next month.)
An evening that started with poolside cocktails and a men's fashion presentation with models sporting looks from Hugo Boss, Fendi and Thierry Mugler, continued with a sit-down dinner during which diners were treated to a set by Deborah Harry, who belted out two of Blondie's most popular songs -- "One Way or Another" and "Heart of Glass" from a stage set up in the Chateau's outdoor garden.
Dinner was followed by a live auction -- which included spirited bidding wars for several pieces of art including a Damien Hirst painting that sold for $35,000 -- and an Andy Warhol "Peaches" print that Bullock took home for $14,000.
Bullock offered a heartfelt tribute to the late Hollywood icon. “She never thought twice when she reached out to touch and hold the hand of an AIDS patient," Bullock said. "She never thought twice to put her arm around someone who was suffering. That is the gift we have as human beings … the ability to reach out and touch. A simple gesture that gives the world of support to its receiver.”
After Bullock's tribute, Taylor's grandson, Quinn Tivey, stepped to the lectern to accept the Courage Award on behalf of the Taylor family.
"She was a witty and inspirational woman," Tivey told the crowd. "And I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to be here to receive this award from Sandra Bullock ... And I want to thank you all for continuing her legacy and her fight and for keeping it strong and vivid."
Surprisingly, Tivey's comments would turn out to be the second-most touching moment of the evening, with the real tear-jerker coming when Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor closed out the evening with a pair of songs.
"This is the part of the show where I'd usually make a few crude jokes -- but this is America," O'Connor quipped as she took to the stage in a purple Herve Leger dress and brown blazer (from local boutique Decadestwo.1) kicked off the pair of heels she was wearing and launched into the song "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance.”
Before singing the evening's final number, O'Connor told the crowd that she often thought about her own mother while singing it: "but tonight, nothing compares to you -- the family and grandchildren of Elizabeth Taylor."
With that, O'Connor launched into her most famous song "Nothing Compares 2 U."
Afterward, the crowd leaped to its feet and gave O'Connor a standing ovation.
According to amfAR, the event raised nearly $500,000 to help fund AIDS research.
Nothing compares, indeed.
Photos: At top left, Sinead O'Connor performs at the amFar gala at the Chateau Marmont Thursday dressed in Herve Leger. At right, (from left to right) attendees Garcelle Beauvais, Selma Blair, Christos Garkinos, Rose McGown and Cameron Silver dressed in the spirit of the event's "black tie/hot metal" dress code. Middle, Elizabeth Taylor's grandson, Quinn Tivey, accepts the Courage Award on her behalf. Bottom, Sinead O'Connor, left, poses with Deborah Harry, who also performed at the benefit. Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images