It's Hard to Tell the Smart-Alecks From the Smart Shoppers These Days

INVITED TO: "Race to Erase MS" gala at the Century Plaza Hotel & Spa to benefit the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis.

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HOT STUFF: "I bid on a bunch of stuff I hope I don't get because I'll be really broke," says TV personality Daisy Fuentes, cruising the silent auction area wrapped in two pieces of Eduardo Lucero. Fuentes is merely one of the dozens of celebrities shuttling between the merchandise, the bar, and paying homage to the Davises (Barbara, Marvin and Nancy). "I was looking for roller blades but the sports section didn't have it," says "American Beauty's" Thora Birch, suffering "what's a girl to get?" pangs. "It'll have to be tiles . . . or a Fendi bag." Denise Rich checks out the guitars. Beg your pardon, will you bid? "Absolutely," answers the songwriter-socialite. A VH-1 event (to be broadcast June 23), the fund-raiser wasn't billed as black tie, but few besides Penny Marshall (in a visor-to-the-rear Eminem cap) and Anjelica Huston (Rolling Stones motorcycle jacket) venture far into the casual. "I should have known better. The Davises' affairs are very high fashion," Huston reflects. But regrets? "Never. This is from the 'Steel Wheels' tour."

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DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT. . . ?: "Isn't this the most beautiful face lift you've ever seen?" asks Nancy Davis at the podium, punning on the hotel's make-over. With the gravity of MS duly acknowledged (highlighted by Montel Williams' testimonial) and $2.6 million raised (the capper is a live auction, courtesy of Bill Maher, Tony Danza and Tom Arnold), levity reigns. Davis' son Jason cracks one about "the Race to Erase PMS," while comedian Billy Connolly gripes, "I thought this was the Race to Erase Ms. I hate that politically correct [stuff]." And among the guests? "I can't believe it. I was going to give him the finger and he gave me the finger first," howls John Travolta, engaging Dustin Hoffman (who's two tables over) in a friendly biggest-stars-at-the-ball flip-off. When Donna Summer delivers that cake someone left out in the rain, everyone boogies between the tables. Further fandemonium erupts for Stevie Wonder. Gushes his introducer, Cher: "This man makes me forget I'm even famous."

CELEB QUOTIENT

Big stars, little stars, old stars and new--all within mingling distance.

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WOW FACTOR

Rock and soul from Brian

Mc-Knight, Donna Summer and Stevie Wonder; eye candy provided by the Tommy Hilfiger models. And for those rich folks who love competitive shopping . . . .

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GRAZING LEVEL

Shrimp and crab legs, filet mignon and barbecued chicken, chocolate mousse. Hardly Hollywood's most decadent bacchanal, but leave hungry and you have only yourself to blame.

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