Life Ball red carpet. Photo: APA
Visitors to the 22nd annual Vienna Life Ball on Saturday evening turned the town square into a sea of flowers.
Organizer Gery Keszler hosted in the "Garden of Earthly Delights", such celebrities as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, singer Ricky Martin, the actors Marcia Cross and Billy Zane and singer Courtney Love.
The absolute highlight of the evening came from Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst, who reprised her winning song "Rise Like A Phoenix".
Already at the beginning of the festivities it was clear that despite all the world stars, the queen of the evening would be Wurst. Even during her walk down the red carpet, young onlookers broke out into choruses of "Conchita, Conchita".
The drag queen played down her success however. "A statement alone is not enough," she said. But she, of course, was pleased to be able to conclude the finale of the ball with her winning song. Due to her great success the drag queen was able to give yet another small concert at the Town Hall.
"Gery Keszler, we are very proud of you," Mayor Michael Häupl said during the opening ceremony. "But I also want to thank Conchita Wurst. The message that the Song Contest sent out into the world, is the future that we envision", said Häupl.
If he looks back on the past few weeks, "the word tolerance has been very strained," Keszler said also with regard to the discussion around the Life Ball poster with a transgender model.
The central part of the opening day was the arrival of 200 debutants in pristine white costumes. Their presence was designed for the sixth time by fashion gurus Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer and Dominik Truschner.
Elmayer promised in advance a "surprise" at the opening and he certainly delivered. With color bombs, such as those used at the Indian Holi Spring Festival, the snow-white sea was transformed into a colorful splendor.
The debutants were accompanied by a dragon figure designed by artist Andre Heller, which can be seen this weekend at the Daffodil Festival in Ausseerland. The ten-meter long sculpture made of wire and narcissus flowers made his debut so to speak, at the Life Ball in Vienna.
Bill Clinton was impressed by the variety of costumes. "I feel so underdressed ," the former U.S. president said .
Also overwhelmed by the evening was AIDS activist Alie Eleveld, who was presented for her project "Safe Water and AIDS Project" with the Life Ball Crystal of Hope, which is accompanied by an award of €100,000.
"Today I feel like I'm in a dream--I'm on a red carpet, meet great people and get a prize handed to me" beamed Eleveld, after she was presented the award by the actors Marcia Cross - dressed in a floor-length flower dress - and Billy Zane.
The finale was designed by Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani, who presented his exclusive menswear collection for the first time. The male models were occasionally flanked by divas.
The most interesting catwalk pairs of the evening were Ben Becker in an over-sized red coat, accompanied by transgender model Carmen Carrera, and Courtney Love with Vivienne Westwood's husband Andreas Kronthaler .
The revenue from the Life Ball and its related events go to benefit the AIDS Help charity. A quarter is allocated to local organizers, while the remaining three-quarters go to international projects such as the "Clinton Health Access Initiative" (CHAI ), the "Foundation for AIDS Research" (amfAR) and the "Elton John Aids Foundation " (EJAF). "I thank you for this great work," said CHAI founder Clinton.
Keszler passed on thanks not only to his team, but also gave tribute to the actor and founder of the organization "People for People", Karlheinz Böhm, who died this week. "I would posthumously like to thank Karlheinz Böhmfor his lifelong commitment to Africa."