William Jefferson Clinton stepped to the podium at the gala last night for the Foundation for AIDS Research to ruminate on his ancestors.
Research, he said, had recently shown that Caucasians are descended from Neanderthals.
“The two women in my life were not surprised to learn that I’m part Neanderthal. They were surprised they were, too.”
The event honored Clinton, Diane von Furstenberg and the absent Elizabeth Taylor, one of the founders of Amfar in 1985.
Furstenberg got some praise from a biased titan.
“My little earth mother wife, she is always extending herself,” said husband Barry Diller, chairman of IAC.
Friendship was the theme of the night. “The key is to be really cheerful when a friend is in trouble,” said “Project Runway” judge Nina Garcia, one of many guests from the worlds of fashion, film and politics gathering at Cipriani’s catering palace on Wall Street.
“I try to do good things, like offer to dog sit,” said actor Cheyenne Jackson. Other actors attending included Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” and Blake Lively of “Gossip Girl.
Woody Allen, accompanied by his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, wasn’t into the friendship theme that dominated many conversations.
“I have no friends and I trust no one,” he said.
The gala culminated with Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Dionne Warwick performing “That’s What Friends Are For.” The song has raised around $3 million for Amfar since the quartet recorded it in 1985.
Over at City Winery on the West Side, several performers ran through the music of Neil Young at a private rehearsal in advance of a sold-out concert tonight at Carnegie Hall.
Jakob Dylan practiced “Southern Man,” Shawn Colvin practiced “Birds,” and Ben Ottewell of the band Gomez offered “Unknown Legend.”
“It’s romantic Americana,” said Ottewell, who’s releasing a recording of the song this spring.
Joan Osborne arrived, taking off her white down coat and ski hat to reveal bright pink ear buds. Appropriately, she was listening to her Neil Young song, “Old Man.”
Tonight’s line-up includes Glen Hansard of the Swell Season covering “Tell Me Why,” Pete Yorn performing “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and the Roots putting their spin on “Down by the River.”
A few tickets may become available even though the concert is sold out, said producer Michael Dorf.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the art and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)