This weekend I was one of several journalists flown out to cover the 21st annual Life Ball, a massive fundraiser for HIV/AIDS research and awareness held at Vienna‘s City Hall. The theme was “1001 Arabian Nights” and over 1,500 people turned out for the themed bash. That meant that Barbara Eden, in her full I Dream of Jeannie regalia, was there along with hundreds of dancers who looked like extras from a naughty Vegas revue version of Aladdin and still more revelers who were naked save for some body glitter and lamps covering their crotches (rub here-get it?). To put the whole evening into perspective, Bill Clinton was there for his work with the Clinton Global Initiative and so was a bearded lady named Conchita that the New York Post has since deemed Kim Kardashian with a beard.
It’s hard to put into words what the experience was like. But since that’s my job, here goes:
The party began before we left New York. Celebrities (Barbara Eden, Greg Louganis, Fergie, Carmen Electra), performers (Adam Lambert, 20 vogue-ers who were part of Fergie’s performance, “living doll” Yasmine Petty, a porn star, and Ru Paul’s Drag Race alums Sharon Needles, Willam, and Detox) as well as journalists departed from JFK on a chartered Austrian Air 777. I should say half of an Austrian Air flight as the other half was occupied by a group of soon-to-be very confused/traumatized Birthright-ers. I quickly learned that there are regular airplane rules (not standing or vogue-ing during take off) and Life Ball plane rules (stand/dance/get naked whenever you want at any point during the flight and also drink as much as you can). A lot of things went down on that flight, most of which I can’t write about here. But let’s just say that anyone who hadn’t joined the mile high club and wanted to, did; that no one slept; and that I learned a lot of new words (like that I was one of the only “RG”s–real girls–on the flight).
And we hadn’t even gotten to the ball.
Given the insanity of the flight over, which culminated in a booze-and-Red Bull-fueled red carpet arrival, I was expecting over-the-top. But that phrase doesn’t quite do it justice. It was a complete sensory overload. At one moment Roberto Cavalli was driving up the magenta carpet (at Life Ball the red carpet is magenta) in a Mini Cooper. At another, Azealia Banks was performing “212″ in a fluffy white midriff cat get-up (obviously I was a fan). Then all of a sudden there was Barbara Eden, doing her I Dream of Jeannie blink-wish move (I blinked more than a few times in awe of her 78-year-old abs) to intro Bill Clinton. In the VIP section, Melanie Griffith was inexplicably there chatting with Dsquared’s Dean and Dan Caten. And this was just the opening ceremony. During the actual party, nightlife legend Susanne Bartsch hosted a drag show, Fergie performed with her vogue-ers, as did Carmen Electra.
At one point I sat down on a bench because a) I can’t wear heels for longer than two hours and b) the aforementioned sensory overload and started chatting with a beautiful woman from Vienna attending the event. A recent resident of the city, she made a point of telling me that she had been to Vienna’s fanciest ball–the Viennese Opera ball–and that it was, to use her words, “incredibly dull.” This was different. It became evident as we people-watched for about an hour, that everyone–gay men, straight men, celebrities, locals–had gone all out: sequins, gold, body glitter, body paint–I even saw a guy on a flying carpet. And all of it for a good cause.
Want to see what it was like?
Click through and enjoy.
Photos: Courtesy Life Ball and BFA