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Fund-Raising a la Mode

September 30, 1996|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was billed as "an evening of fashion and compassion." Macy's provided the fashion and honorary chairwoman Elizabeth Taylor the most stirring plea for caring.

Macy's and the American Express Card Passport '96 fund-raiser, "On the Edge," on Friday night benefiting five HIV/AIDS organizations, was an orgy of synergy.

Celebrities, sports heroes, fashion faddists, corporate bigwigs, megamodels, children, performing artists, concerned citizens and, undoubtedly, a few of the just plain curious, created a crowd of 2,600 who modeled on the runway and packed the bleachers in Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport for the night of "fashion theater" presented by the Los Angeles Times.

Two-tier ticket prices had earlier entitled contributors to attend either a cocktail reception ($150) or a sit-own dinner catered by chefs from Eclipse, Valentino and Vida with tickets priced at $500 and $1,000.

The idea for the fund-raiser, which was begun in-house by a few Macy's employees in San Francisco, has grown over 14 years into a mammoth production there, and came to Los Angeles after three sold-out evenings in San Francisco. A sell-out here boosted to $1.4 million the amount Passport '96 raised for the cause this year, the funds to go to American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR), Project Angel Food, the Center for HIV and Digestive Diseases at the UCLA AIDS Institute, the Magic Johnson Foundation Inc. and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Taylor, sleekly dressed in cream silk and with a hairstyle like a short feathered cap, joined Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Macy's Chairman and CEO Michael Steinberg in putting voice to the cause.

Noting that "10 years of science have started to bear fruit," Taylor stressed that, "Now is not the time to turn back.

"Until we have resolved all these issues, we need all of you," Taylor said. She then exchanged hugs and kisses with Johnson, saying the HIV-positive athlete had "stood up bravely in a world that is often hostile." They were joined briefly at the podium by Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, who handed over a pair of gold shoes to help the fund-raising.

Then it was show time, a multimedia presentation of Macy's fall fashions viewed by the crowd from stands.

It was also time for some of the celebrities to strut alongside top models including Tyra Banks. While no one proved a threat to Banks' job, a few seemed to have the hang of it as a melange of vivid fashion was paraded in front of the audience, most of whom were soberly dressed in basic black.

Women's basketball gold medalist Lisa Leslie showed all the right moves, wearing a yellow polar fleece vest over a blue Lycra tee and, seemingly, yards of black Lycra leggings from David Chu for Nautica. Magic Johnson's son, Earvin III, 4, sporting nautica ski-wear and holding hands with his dad, provided an endearing moment.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doffed his fedora with casual ease, leading off variations of the respectable gangster look for men and women--overcoats over pinstriped suits from designers including Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani. Dean Cain, TV's Superman, earned enough squeals in one version of this look to inherit John F. Kennedy Jr.'s "most eligible bachelor" status.

The show rolled on, enhanced by performance groups, including the industrial strength trampoline dancers the Apogee Troupe, and the young drumming quartet Jamaa Pamoja. In the fashion show there were cute kids in hybrid get-ups; there was attractive retro velvet and ugly retro crochet; there were grim Ninotchka-like uniforms, which even Garbo couldn't have made appealing, Mad Hatter tea-party headgear, and men in their underpants (Gene Meyer's silk boxer collection) with their socks still on; there was RuPaul, a cross between Mae West and a bronzed Barbarella, in a russet chiffon peignoir over crotch-high shiny scarlet boots, and then . . . it was time to go home.

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