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White tie and tiara ball

 
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Elle MacPherson
Glamorous: Elle MacPherson arriving at the White Tie and Tiara Ball

Hilary Alexander spends an evening among stars helping to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation

The pre-dinner buzz was all about shoes - or the unsuitability of them - at Sir Elton John’s 9th Annual White Tie & Tiara Ball as guests sipped Las Vegas martinis and be-jewelled and be-gowned celebrities tried to balance on the soggy greensward.

The heels of Manolos and Jimmy Choos sank up to five inches into the turf as earlier heavy rain created a minor quagmire.

Sadly, the diamond-encrusted ‘Glasto’ wellies belonging to Dame Shirley Bassey, one of the evening’s star performers, were not available for hire.

"I’m just off to aerate the lawn," said Louise Redknapp.

"I started getting vertigo from sinking backwards so I’ve taken my shoes off," said actress Joely Richardson, waving her pink satin stiletto slingbacks as she tip-toed barefoot. "I’m wearing trainers," said jeweller Theo Fennell’s wife, Louise, who was dressed as ‘The Runaway Bride’.

"I’m in flats," said Elle Macpherson who swept in wearing long pink sapphire Chopard earrings to match her long pink Marchesa gown. Lulu, fearful for her black lace Alexander McQueen gown and spike-heels embellished with black chiffon roses, retreated to the colonnaded terrace.

Other guests, like artist Tracey Emin, fresh from the Venice Biennale, who donated her ‘Star trek Voyager’ handsewn blanket to the auction, wisely opted for wedges which performed like platform-soled snow-shoes under taffeta crinolines and satin slinks alike.

Fellow artist Sam Taylor Wood, shimmering in an Alexander McQueen Grecian gown and wedges, with husband Jay Jopling, was looking forward to her 8-month-old daughter Jessie’s christening tomorrow (Saturday 30th June).

The theme of this year’s ball was Las Vegas and Sir Elton and David Furnish’s Old Windsor mansion, ‘Woodside’, was be-decked with a pink stretch cadillac, giant blow-ups and stage inflatables from the singer’s ‘Red Piano’ gigs at Caeser’s Palace and a cast of seven Elvis lookalikes.

Stephen Fry obeyed the ‘white tie and tiara’ invitation to the letter, in white tie with a diamond tiara by Count Alexander von Beregshasy - who did Kate Winslet’s jewels for ‘Titanic’ - nestled in his hair.

Emerging rocker, Patrick Wolf, borrowed a tiara from hot model of the moment, Agyness Deyn, to decorate his punk, red-dyed hair - but forgot the white tie concept, opting for a Burberry silver sequinned cardigan, baseball trousers and cricket shoes instead.

Elizabeth Hurley was, according to her husband, Arun Nayar, "wearing pyjamas" - but not to the event. She was at home, in bed, laid low with a bug. Naomi Campbell also failed to show, but was scarcely missed amongst the best-dressed list of royalty, rocktocracy and the rich.

Sir Elton greeted his guests in a Yohji Yamamoto tailcoat emblazoned with Las Vegas badges, while Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, the co-president and artistic director of Chopard , one of the sponsors of the annual ball, matched a king’s ransom of daimonds and emeralds with a black, ruffled crinoline by the young British designer Adam Jones.

Other guests included the Duchess of York and daughter Princess Beatrice, the Begum Aga Khan in a jewelled red sari, Sir Michael Caine and his wife Shakira, Dame Judi Dench, cricketer Freddie Flintoff and his model-wife Rachel, David Walliams and Lisa Snowdon, Boris Becker, here for Wimbledon, Kirsten Dunst who wrapped her Chopard diamond necklace around her forehead like a 1920’s flapper-girl and burlesque queen Dita VonTeese who was squeezed into a skintight flame-orange Christian Lacroix.

The ball was staged in a vast marquee decorated in red and black and featuring a thirty foot high fountain which rose and fell in time to early Elvis and Sinatra before cascading into a floodlit pool.

Dinner was served at tables lit by four foot high candelabra. On the menu - a truffle souffle followed by Surf and Turf (fillet mignon with Maine lobster tail) and a giant Knickerbocker Glory.

With dinner over, it was time for the serious business of the evening - the auction to raise funds for the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Sir Elton told guests that in the last nine years more than £20.5 million had been raised, leading to a letter from America’s Charity Navigator which analyses charities worldwide, awarding the foundation 4-star status for the second consecutive year.

"In addition, a further £300 million has been leveraged from our work," Sir Elton said. A Rolls Royce ‘Phantom’ drophead coupe - apparently there is a waiting list til 2009 - went for £800,000.

Tracey Emin’s artwork reached the same figure. An Audi R8 sportscar took £400,000, an hour’s tennis coaching and lunch at Woodside with current Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer - wisely home in bed in preparation for today's match against Marat Safin - went for 300,000, and a trip to South Africa with Sir Elton and David Furnish to see the work of the fund in action, gained a further £800,000.

By the time the auction was over, a record £3.5 million had been raised.

Then it was time for the party - the most star-studded karaoke in history, with Sir Elton, Dame Shirley and Tom Jones all on the bill - backed by a 25-piece orchestra and a whooping hollering audience of 500 who knew every word.

Sir Elton duetted on Hey Big Spender with Dame Shirley and on ‘Delilah’ with Mr Jones. They were still belting out yet another chorus as I slipped into the clear, starlit night.

Thankfully it didn’t look as if any of the dozens of black umbrellas , thoughtfully provided, would be needed.

(More picture in OK! Magazine on Tuesday)

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