Auction houses may have trouble selling Van Goghs these days, but on a rainy Sunday night in West Hollywood, 500 people turned out for frenzied bidding on extra-large Hanes T-shirts decorated by celebrities.
The money raised went to Northern Lights Alternatives, a local organization founded in 1986 to provide counseling to people infected with the AIDS virus and their friends and relatives.
The silent and live auctions unfolded on the fifth and sixth floors of the Pacific Design Center, and the party style was very '90s--a good value ($50 tickets that included buffet dinner and unlimited bar visits), no predetermined dress code (some people wore blue jeans, some came in drag) and a party plan that allowed people to roam around, see friends, be entertained and go home when they wanted.
Buffet tables held mountains of mixed cheese cubes, tortilla chips, salsa, Thai seafood pasta, chorizo in phyllo dough, shrimp chips, strawberries and pineapple.
Getting 175 celebrities to agree to decorate a T-shirt and then actually to decorate one was "a labor-intensive nightmare," said a Northern Lights spokesperson. But by last week, at least 50 volunteers were running around town picking up the completed works of wearable art from stars such as Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Anjelica Huston, Ali MacGraw, Richard Gere, Milton Berle and Pat Boone. (To simplify their lives, each star received a packet containing squeezable paint, sequins, jewels and fabric markers.)
Do stars have design talent? Michelle Pfeiffer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio displayed real artistry. Pfeiffer whipped up an enchanting and glittery court jester, while Mastrantonio drew a scene from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Others took the easy way out. Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson just signed their names. Many others, including Norman Lear, enlisted the help of their toddlers.
At the party were co-chairs Judith Light and Bruce Davison, co-host Kenny Sacha, Kathy Bates, Robert Desiderio, Erik Estrada, Betty Garrett, Estelle Getty, June Lockhart, Lisa Pelikan, Doris Roberts, Roddy McDowall, Dick Sargent, Holland Taylor, Sandy Duncan and Don Correia.
Also on hand were "Beverly Hills, 90210" teen heartthrobs Gabrielle Carteris and Luke Perry, who caused quite a sensation when he blushingly agreed to bare his chest to raise the bid on the cast T-shirt to $2,000.
If celebrity popularity is rated by T-shirt selling prices, Madonna finished first, her shirt reaping an impressive $4,200, followed closely by Elizabeth Taylor, whose shirt sold for $4,000.
Meryl Streep's effort collected $3,000, while the artistry of Sandy Duncan, Barbara Bush, Elton John and comic Rosie O'Donnell each brought in $2,000.