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Life Ball takes flight with swarms of angels, horses

VIENNA (AFP) ― Swarms of angels, flying horses and fantastic birds of paradise converged on Vienna’s neo-Gothic City Hall on Saturday for this year’s Life Ball.

In line with this year’s motto ― “Spread the Wings of Tolerance” ― many of the guests to the 19th edition of one of the world’s biggest AIDS charity events let their imaginations take flight with their spectacularly colorful fancy dress.

Among the headline guests to this year’s mega-party, which as in previous year attracted some 40,000 revelers, was pop star Janet Jackson.

“I’m here to fight for the cause. I’ve lost lots for friends to AIDS,” she told AFP. 
Francesca Habsburg wears a creation of DSQUARED2 as she walks during the fashion show at the 19th Life Ball in front of the city hall in Vienna on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Francesca Habsburg wears a creation of DSQUARED2 as she walks during the fashion show at the 19th Life Ball in front of the city hall in Vienna on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap News)

It is now 30 years since the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV which causes AIDS was discovered, and Jackson was attending the Life Ball for the first time as a representative for the amfAR foundation set up by the late Elizabeth Taylor.

The ball “is full of energy. I think it’s cool to see all these people walking around with their wings,” Jackson said.

Tickets for Life Ball cost up to 150 euros ($212), but those wanting to attend a fancy dinner beforehand in the Imperial Palace ― attended by former US president Bill Clinton and US actress Brooke Shields ― had to fork out 2,500 euros ($3,500) for the privilege.

There was also an auction where items on the block included a diamond and ruby necklace shaped like the red AIDS ribbon and an invitation to Clinton’s 65th birthday party.

Like the glittering Opera Ball earlier in the year, which is the most exclusive and elegant of the hundreds of balls held in the Austrian capital, the ball proper on Saturday was opened in Viennese tradition by 100 male and female social debutantes.

An emotional moment came when British pop singer Holly Johnson, former frontman of the 1980s cult band Frankie Goes to Hollywood and himself HIV positive for nearly 20 years, sang the band’s hit “The Power of Love.”

The Life Ball ― one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world, attracting some 40,000 revelers every year ― raised over 1.65 million euros for international and national HIV and AIDS projects last year.

Past guests of the Life Ball, who often attend in extravagant costumes, have included singer Katy Perry and actresses Sharon Stone and Whoopi Goldberg.
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