What: A ritzy auction, black-tie dinner, and dated-but-fabulous concert by En Vogue, all to benefit Best Buddies International. The organization pairs volunteers with the intellectually challenged to create one-on-one friendships.
Where: The Potomac mansion of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Who: As the evening’s emcee, Best Buddies International founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver gave a shout-out to a slew of high-society guests, including Olympic gold-medalist Carl Lewis (who later ended up onstage with En Vogue), Audi exec Matthias Braun (Audi just signed on as the exclusive vehicle sponsor of Best Buddies), and of course, Shriver’s parents, who host the event every year. Also around the dinner tables: German ambassador Klaus Scharioth, Austrian ambassador Eva Nowotny, Swiss ambassador Urs Ziswiler, and Princess Thi-Nga of Vietnam. At Mrs. Shriver’s request, Dancing With the Stars cast members Karina Smirnoff and Alec Mazo wowed the crowd with a ballroom number. But Arnold Schwarzenegger, if he hasn’t already, may want to retire the “I’ll be back” line—the California governor and honorary ball chair hasn’t been to the annual gala since 2001.
Drink: A spacious open bar stocked with wine, beer, and top-notch liquor.
Scene: Hey, big spender! Socialites shopped more than schmoozed at cocktail hour, which doubled as a lavish silent auction in a giant outdoor tent. Some dropped hundreds of dollars on books that—sans pen scrawl by Hillary/Barack/U2—would be worth less than $40; others bid thousands on Waterford crystal and Prada handbags. Women lined up to test their luck, for $100 a pop, at opening a locked box of Tiffany baubles.
Win or lose, the money went to a great cause—and guests knew it. The dinner program (held in an adjoining tent) brought several Buddies to the mike, including superstar fundraiser Eric Matthes. Afterward, the diamond-clad crowd was surprisingly into onetime hot pop/hip-hop group En Vogue, who burst onto the stage with the 1992 hit “My Lovin’.”
Live auction: Buyers were slow to bite at $20,000 one-day fantasy getaways and $38,000 journeys on the Orient Express, but the auctioneer persevered. Between ticket sales, auction proceeds, and donations, the event brought in about $1.2 million for Best Buddies.
Boldface names: 3.5 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 4 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)
Total score: 15.5 (out of 20)