On This Night of a Thousand Stars
From an article by Donna Freydkin and Andrea Mandell, USA Today.
The annual party Vanity Fair throws at Oscar time has been canceled.
But the next best thing took over the United Nations Wednesday night, when Madonna hosted a fundraiser for her charity, Raising Malawi, and UNICEF.
There was a star everywhere you looked. Such is the pull of Gucci, which opened its massive Fifth Avenue store this week and sponsored the event, and the queen of entertainment, Madonna. When she goes somewhere, she brings friends. Lots of them.
“Madonna brings me out. She has been a very close friend of mine for a very long time, and she asked me to attend,” said Gwyneth Paltrow, in pink Gucci. “I think she asked me over dinner one night. She has done so much good.”
Madonna founded Raising Malawi with Kabbalah co-director Michael Berg in 2006; the charity aims to improve the lives of poor children in the African nation.
Madonna herself, accompanied by daughter Lola, 11, didn’t speak to the media much, but was the center of attention both at the cocktail party and the dinner, where security was so tight that guests had to walk through metal detectors and go through multiple ID checks before being allowed inside.
“I admire what she’s doing, and I admire what UNICEF does,” said Tom Cruise. “Her office called me. I’ve known Madonna for years. I really admire her.”
Added his wife, Katie Holmes, in a scarlet Alexander McQueen: “We have friends here we’re looking forward to seeing.”
“It’s a very worthy cause, and Madonna is a very good friend. We’re supportive of each other’s life endeavors. It’s something that means a lot to her and to me,” said Rosie O’Donnell, who added that Madonna called and invited her. “We’re friends and friends call each other.”
Singer Rihanna, who performed her hits Umbrella and Don’t Stop the Music after dinner, is a big fan of Madonna. “Hell, yeah. She is unbelievable.”
Madonna, meanwhile, greeted her friends and hung out with her daughter. At one point, the rock superstar introduced Lola to Vince Vaughn: “This is my daughter, Lola,” she told the actor, who affably chatted up the child and said hello before telling his friend he needed a drink.
During an introductory speech later in the night, Madonna proved that even celebrities have trouble calming the nerves. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous in my life,” she confessed during a speech before the dinner. “It would be much easier for me to perform in a soccer stadium filled with 80,000 people than stand up here and host this event.”
When a fan screamed, “We love you,” Madonna murmured a thank-you.
That’s some high-profile love.
Jennifer Lopez, due any day with twins, rocked a Gucci gown and 5-inch heels. How she’s feeling? “Very happy! Feeling really good,” said Lopez before she gave the typical fierce poses in front of the cameras.
Cruise was spotted hugging Chris Rock, who discussed his home just outside the city. Lucy Liu told Holmes how beautiful she looks. Later, Rock chatted up his Bee Movie co-star Jerry Seinfeld.
Brooke Shields talked about her desire to meet Djimon Hounsou – and then went up to him and posed for a photo with him, girlfriend Kimora Lee Simmons and starlet Camilla Belle.
Is that the biggest perk of being a former Oscar nominee? “Absolutely!” Hounsou said. “It makes you feel like a king. But really, truly, it’s a great event, and I’m happy Madonna went out of her way to raise money for this. It’s a country much needing of help,” said the Blood Diamond star.
Nearby was Demi Moore, hugging Cruise and warmly greeting Holmes. Later, during dinner, Moore talked with Lola about switching schools. A pregnant Gwen Stefani and husband Gavin Rossdale headed toward the cocktail party, and she told him, “I’m just following you.”
Despite the star wattage, the focus was on the cause. “I think you can go out and support a lot of things that are fun-spirited, or a personal project that you’re working on. But when it’s something global and life-changing and important like this – this is what we should be talking about out in the world,” said Drew Barrymore, accompanied by Justin Long. “There’s a lot of fluff, a lot of gossip, a lot of fodder that’s sort of on people’s minds, and I’d much prefer these types of subjects to be encompassing their brains and hearts, so this is why we came out.”
But stars can be just like us. Surrounded by all this fabulousness, Barrymore and Long had one thought before dinner: finding the potty. “I think I have to pee,” the actress announced to her boyfriend.