Last night was “The Black Ball,” Condé Nast’s curiously named benefit gala for African AIDS charity Keep a Child Alive, and the arrivals line at Hammerstein Ballroom looked like a high-society version of that bit in Legally Blonde when the Harvard snobs tell Elle Woods to come to the party in costume but they’re totally lying. White person after white person — Elijah Woods, Sophie Dahl, Tinsley Mortimer, Garavani Valentino (whose skin, admittedly, more closely resembles orange) — showed up in head to toe black, as Iman in bright red and Gayle King in yellow sauntered by, laughing away. We imagined joke invitations and meetings on subterfuge strategies, but, thankfully, the gala was not a room divided. Here, some touching moments of togetherness …
• Emcee Wanda Sykes, upon flubbing line after TelePromTered line, sympathized with the president. “This puts Bush a notch above retarded,” she admitted. “Just a notch.”
• Sykes also confessed that she doesn’t just help out children in Africa. “I’ve taken several trips to Vegas, and I’ve kept some children alive. Those strippers, you know, they’ve got children, and they’ve got straight teeth now thanks to me. I’ve corrected some overbites.”
• When musical guests Louis XIV — who, we’ll just point out, are from San Diego but talk with British accents — took the stage, everyone in the room, black and white, collectively decided to use the loo.
• When Alicia Keys was onstage, singing a call-and-response song called “Africa,” a black man at the front took off his coat and swung a napkin over head, while a hapless white woman dancing at the room’s center tripped and fell on her friend.
• Then, as Keys starts into Janis Joplin’s “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart,” Anne Hathaway high-fived Iman. Oh, no, she didn’t! (Yes, she did.)
• David Bowie sang “Changes.” Alicia Keys joined him. Everyone agreed he’s awesome.
— Jocelyn Guest