Vienna rides Conchita wave with AIDS charity ball

Vienna rides Conchita wave with AIDS charity ball
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Party-goers dressed in little more than body paint rubbed shoulders with men in tuxedos and cross-dressers in wild costumes on Saturday, transforming Vienna’s City Hall into a fantasy land.

The occasion, Europe’s biggest charity event, was serious: raising money for AIDS research.

But, as in previous years, the 20th annual Life Ball was also an anything-goes gala with an emphasis on diversity.

At least 300,000 euros (409,000 US dollars) flooded in via donations and the auctioning of works by artists such as Dave Lachapelle.

Conchita Wurst, who won the recent Eurovision song contest, was the undisputed favourite at this year’s event.

Hoots of approval, applause and whistles greeted the bearded drag performer dressed in figure-hugging silver lame, as she belted out her winning torch song “Fly Like a Phoenix.”

Minutes later, formally clad VIP guests holding 750-euro (1,000 US dollar) tickets began streaming inside the neo-gothic hall for a night of eating, dancing and champagne-filled revelry.

Former US president Bill Clinton urged all attending not to forget what lies behind the event.

“The determination of every person giving here to give every child a better chance,” he said.

Other well-knowns included Ricky Martin and “Desperate Housewife” Marcia Cross, who co-presented an award to SWAP, a Kenya-based charity working to provide clean water to people living with AIDS.

This year’s theme was “Garden of Delights,” after the painting of similar name by Hieronymus Bosch.

Male models accompanied by statuesque women strutted their stuff, showing off tuxedos by Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Lanvin, among others.

But the real eye-catchers were the costumed party-goers – Arabian sheiks, rococo queens of all sexes, men in Carmen Miranda headgear and others in outfits that defied classification.

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