A Night Out: YouthAIDS Gala

The annual gala is always one of Washington's biggest fall events.

By: Garrett M. Graff

Gala attendees dine in the ballroom at the Ritz in Tysons Corner.

What: The YouthAIDS Annual Gala, "Faces of Latin America"

Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner

When: October 13, 6:30 p.m. to late

Who: Virgin chief/world playboy Sir Richard Branson, Ashley Judd, Wynonna Judd, Circus leaders Bonnie and Kenneth Feld, Project Runway's Tim Gunn, Poseidon's Josh Lucas and Emmy Rossum, Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera, Stylist Phillip Bloch, Performers Jorge Moreno and Michael McDonald, AOL titans Ted Leonsis and Steve Case, Mystics owner Sheila Johnson and husband Judge William T. Newman, 9 News' Tracey Neale, Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell, Mark Ein, jewelry designer Roberto Coin, and Washington ballet director Septime Webre. Paula Abdul was supposedly in attendance, but there were no confirmed sightings.

Entrance Price: $1,000 a ticket.

Scene: Ambiguous "fiesta cocktail" attire leads to a motley assortment of fashion: Some black tie, some suits, long dresses, short dresses, and then of course there were the Ringling Brothers & Bailey circus performers on stilts. Lengthy program, including more than ten speakers, two musical performances, one salsa dance, and live auction led by Neale, Gunn, and Bloch, leads to many guests ducking out before the evening wraps up. Nevertheless swanky scene, Hollywood stars, and a good cause make for a successful evening.

Food Highlight: Giant tubs of fresh-made guacamole from Rosa Mexicano; Small Mayan temples made out of chocolate.

Main Course: Marquen spiced Carolina grouper, dried tomato flan, autumn root vegetables, and cilantro butter.

Beverage of Choice
: Tart 10 Cane Rum "original" daiquiris.

Sign of Excess
: For a bargain rate of only $15,000, Steve Case in the gala's live auction won himself a collection of pricey wines, including 2 bottles of 1988 Chateau Latour Premier Grand Cru Classe Pauillac, 1990 Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet, 1991 Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet, 1994 Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet, 2 bottles of 1995 and 1996 Williams Selyem Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 1 Double Magnum of 1999 Ravenswood Pickberry Cabernet, 2 bottles of 1971 La Tache, DRC, 2 bottles of 1947 Chambertin Grand Cru, Louis Remy, 2 bottles of 1970 Petrus, Pomerol, and 2 bottles of 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion, Premier Grand Cru.

Gift Bag Contents: $100 Saks Gift Card, a copy of Veuve Clicquot's own magazine and sunglasses case, Washington Mystics panda bear, Kiehl's sampler, Aldo YouthAids' necklace. Lots of pamphlets and store directories.

Ratings:

Bold Face Guests: 4 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food/Drinks: 4 (out of 5)
Overall Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)

Total Score: 16 (out of 20)

YouthAIDS Director Kate Roberts with Ashley Judd and Emmy Rossum.
Project Runway host and fifth generation Washingtonian Tim Gunn during the live auction.
Lynn and Ted Leonsis with Sir Richard Branson.