The chicken potpie established an aura of comfort and camaraderie at the Divine Design '96 gala Sunday night. The dinner was the same menu served that day by Project Angel Food to more than 800 homebound men, women and children living with AIDS.
The 1,200 gala-goers gathered in a black tent on the roof of the Pacific Design Center were impressed by the meal, the speed of the program and the generosity of the bidders at the lively auction for items, which included a Mercedes-Benz and the opportunity to sponsor 900 Christmas Day meals for people with AIDS.
By the time the supporters were back in their cars at the early hour of 9:30 p.m., they were smiling over the fact that more than $1.5 million had been raised for Project Angel Food and DIFFA / Los Angeles, which funds AIDS organizations.
During the cocktail hour guests checked out the fashion and home furnishing merchandise sale, a part of Divine Design's six-day event, but they were soon making their way, like a well-dressed conga line, up the escalators, elevators and stairs to the tent, where cardboard cherubs hung from the roof.
Although three of the five honorees chosen to receive Passage Awards were not there, the absentees managed to seem included via satellite, video clip and the very live presence of RuPaul, accepting with accustomed panache the Cosmetic and Makeup Artistry award on behalf of M.A.C.'s Frank Toskan.
Cindy Crawford did the honors for Herb Ritts, recipient of the Fine Art Photography award. Ritts beamed in his thanks from a freezing pre-dawn location somewhere in Sweden. Jennifer Tilly, admitting to being a "Gucciholic" who believes "the plunge front jacket with no bra is perfectly appropriate for many Hollywood situations," accepted the Fashion Design award for Tom Ford, whose recorded thanks were flashed on the video screens around the room.
But Sally Sirkin Lewis was present to collect her Interior Design award, as was shoe mogul Kenneth Cole to pick up the Corporate Humanitarianism award.
Among those taking part in the presentations and sponsorship or simply enjoying the evening were TV stars Jane Leeves and Lisa Kudrow; Mike and Irena Medavoy; Bridget and John Martens; Martin Fassnidge; Diane Merrick; sculptor Guy Dill, who designed the Passage Award; Project Angel Food's John Gile; and event steering committee members Patti Cappalli, Mel Lowrance, Stephen Stoner, Laurance Taylor and Ronnie Sassoon with husband Vidal.