Avril Lavigne, Tommy Hilfiger, Paris Hilton hit the Race to Erase MS gala


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Recession? What recession? The grim economy seemed to have met its match Friday evening at the 17th annual Race to Erase MS.

Founder Nancy Davis has grown this event into one of the biggest on the L.A. social calendar, and she’s been working full time to make sure it doesn’t slip.The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza’s ballroom -- the largest in Los Angeles -- was teeming with more than 1,000 nattily dressed people who’d dropped $1,000 a plate to be there. One of them even spent $210,000 on a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Coupe in the live auction.


Davis’ efforts garnered her two standing ovations and a sizable and eclectic turnout from the entertainment industry. Treading the red carpet were Anne Heche and James Tupper, Buzz Aldrin, Erik Estrada, Mayim Bialik and ‘Brothers & Sisters’ heartthrob Gilles Marini. There was not one but three musical performances -- featuring Avril Lavigne, Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson and Doc Hollywood.

As Davis -- diagnosed with MS in 1991 -- told the glittery crowd, ‘With the downturn of the economy, so much research has been halted in the last two years. When you’re suffering with a disease like multiple sclerosis, you don’t have the luxury of waiting until the economy gets better. Every day is precious and so unpredictable. I know. I call you year after year to help this monumentally important cause. ...Thank you for simply taking my call.’

Celebs modeling casual wear in co-host Tommy Hilfiger‘s fashion show included actress Ali Landry, ‘Dancing With the Stars’ ’ Chelsie Hightower, singer Deborah Gibson and ‘Heroes’ ’ Robert Knepper. Among the presenters were Olympians Apolo Ohno and Lindsey Vonn, newly clean-shaven Dr. Phil McGraw and wife Robin, and ‘Dancing With the Stars’ ’ Brooke Burke, who ... ... had the tough job of holding a painfully cute Maltese puppy in the live auction. And of course there were the newest presenters, Davis’ hunkalicious son Alexander -- former fiance of Wonderbra model and actress Caprice Bourret and younger brother of young Hollywood denizen Brandon -- and his 5-year-old twin half-sisters, Mariella and Isabella. The brood introduced their mom, who wore a coral gown -- for the gala’s slogan, ‘Orange You Happy to Erase MS’ -- that matched her daughters’.

Davis, daughter of the late oil billionaire and 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis, gave a shout out to other famous socialites for helping her ‘raise public awareness of multiple sclerosis’ – Paris and Kathy Hilton, old friends of the Davises who attended with Nicky and dad Rick.

One key to Davis’ success is tending her network of high-profile old friends who turn out every year to help her raise some $2 million for her research-focused Center Without Walls. How old is old?

Tom Arnold, who conducted the live auction with Nancy O’Dell, told the Ministry that he first became friends with the Davises four wives ago, when he was married to Roseanne.

‘We were all invited to Frank Sinatra‘s house, and only men were allowed at the bar,’ Arnold recalled. ‘He said, ‘What are you drinking?’ I’d just gotten out of rehab, and I didn’t want to tell him that because I didn’t want to seem like a wuss. He said, ‘Oh, you have a wife. No broad could keep me from drinking.’ I said, ‘Well, you’ve never been with a really big one evidently.’

-- Irene Lacher

Top photo: Hosts Tom Arnold, left, and Nancy O’Dell, right, take bids from the audience as Brooke Burke holds a puppy to be auctioned off at the 17th annual Race to Erase MS gala in Los Angeles, May 7, 2010. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

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