Monday, February 12, 2007


Woody Allen and Dr. Mathilde Krim at amfAR's New York Gala.
by Kate Ballen

2/12/07 -
Bright lights and snapping cameras chased the crowd as they rushed into Cipriani 42nd last Wednesday evening. Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Kenneth Cole, Woody Allen, and Natasha Richardson were all ready to do the room.  And if there was any theme among celebs such as Carol Alt and Sigourney Weaver, it was being extremely tall and fashionable in long gowns. Richard Gere’s stunning wife was especially noticeable in a dress with a black lace hem. For a moment or two, the evening appeared just like another red carpet night in trendy New York City.

Nathasha Richardson
But looking closely, the crowd was quieter and seemed to be more serious than usual. A circle of attentive women were huddled around the glamorous Sharon Stone draped in a silver glittery gown. “I could care less about what I’m wearing. If this dress would make money for AIDS, I would sell it,” bluntly announced the actress. “Let’s stop whining. Do you know AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death in America. It is our plague.” For over a decade, Stone has been wasting no words as the dynamic chairman of amfAR’s Campaign for AIDS Research. This is her cause. She’s worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the devastating disease and also raised millions of dollars. The New York Gala on January 31st was no exception. AmfAR raised nearly $3 million for HIV/AIDS research programs. With some 40 million people infected worldwide, every cent is vital.

The 2007 AmfAR New York Gala couldn’t help but feel like a night of contradictions. Mingling with the strong feeling of celebration/commitment from the supporters, there was also a lingering sadness for all the millions of people lost to the epidemic. (Currently there are about one million people in the United States with AIDS or HIV.) Concerned Parents for AIDS Research, private family foundations, and the likes of Donna Karan, Kim Cattrall, Stanley Tucci, Gary Shandling, and Maria Cuomo Cole filled the tables.
Sharon Stone and Beyonce Knowles
An emotional song performed by Tracy Chapman floated through the room. But the highlight of the evening were the special honors, the “Awards of Courage,” given to Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Roedy, vice chairman of MTV networks, and John Demsey, the chairman of the MAC AIDS fund, for their contributions to the struggle against AIDS.

AmfAR also awarded the inaugural Roy London Award to Sharon Stone (London was Stone’s acting teacher who died of AIDS). And finally the entire room stood up and applauded when amfAR gave a special tribute to Dr. Mathilde Krim, the founding amfAR chairman and spirit of inspiration for the past 25 years. “Bringing an end to AIDS is the essence of Mathilde’s life,” pronounced Kenneth Cole, the active chairman of the amfAR Board.  Richard Gere sent a chill though the audience as he said “90% of people worldwide who are HIV positive still don’t know they have it. We have an enormous amount of work to do.”  According to the Center for Disease Control, about a quarter of all people with HIV in the U.S. don’t know they are carrying the virus.

Since amfAR’s founding in 1985 by Dr. Krim and Elizabeth Taylor, the Foundation has emerged as the major nonprofit organization supporting research and public policy for this devastating disease.
Whoopi Goldberg
AmfAR has invested almost $250 million in its programs and awarded grants to over 2,000 research teams around the world. But it is also the compassionate  and innovative spirit of amfAR that has made the Foundation so successful. In an interview with CEO Jerome Radwin down at amfAR’s Wall Street office you can immediately feel the strong emotions and commitment when he talks about his passion for his work, the employees, and amfAR.

Radwin, who formerly worked as Executive Director of New York’s March of Dimes unit, speaks thoughtfully about the stigma of AIDS that still exist, about all the friends he has lost to AIDS and about the battle that cannot be relinquished. “Too many people are under the assumption that AIDS has been dealt with and the battle is overseas. But we have 40,000 new infections in the U.S every year,” intently says Radwin. (Dressed in an Irish sweater and with his short white beard you could imagine Radwin walking down the halls of Columbia University.)

But pale green walls of the main office at 120 Wall Street are enough to move almost anyone to join the battle. The artist, Joseph Kosuth, has covered the walls with a time line of the epidemic, names of donors, and poignant quotes including  Elizabeth Taylor’s “I will not be silenced and I will not give up and I will not be ignored.” It is evident and fortunate that amfAR, whether at its Galas in New York, Dallas or Cannes, will not retreat from this ruthless epidemic.
Garry Shandling
Bill Roedy and Beyonce Knowles
Carey Lowell and Richard Gere
Sharon Stone
Kim Cattrall
Tracy Chapman
Dr. Mathilde Krim and Kenneth Cole
Sigourney Weaver
Eve and John Demsey

Photographs by WireImage