"I hate the snow. We can't do it if it snows."
Taking inspiration from a would-be blizzard, Lady Gaga helped kick off Fashion Week at amfAR's New York gala to honor Elton John and benefit AIDS research Wednesday night as a woman in white — white cap, white hair, white jacket, white bra, white panties, white boots, and white pearls, powder, and paint all over her ensemble and exposed skin. But once she took the stage, her new look became part of her performance.
Sitting still as a statue, Gaga shared the top of her custom-designed piano with a mannequin, so that at first, they looked like a pair. Then, with slow deliberate movements, she held a teacup as if to drink from it, dropped it, and spat it out — but what came out of her mouth were even more pearls. Only then was she ready to straddle the piano bench to sing a tailored rendition of "Future Love."
"Those were real pearls," her designer Terence Koh said. "We wanted her to seem like a 2-D sculpture, and relate it to AIDS, in a happy, beautiful sense. She's puking out beautiful things."
Gaga's song was modified to address AIDS indirectly, by honoring MAC's Viva Glam and the MAC AIDS Fund, for which she and Cyndi Lauper are the latest spokespeople, singing in the chorus, "Would you put me in your fu-future plans? We'll live our lives so Viva Glam."
Meryl Streep was on hand for a tribute to Natasha Richardson, singing a rendition of the Irish ballad "The Parting Glass." "It really takes guts to get up and sing after Lady Gaga," she joked.
"Lady Gaga was exciting and new," said Rufus Wainwright, who also performed two songs, "and I'm a great admirer of hers, but I was surprised with Meryl Streep's song. I lost my mother a few weeks ago, and I thought I could keep it together just fine, and of course, I failed. I cried. Thanks, Meryl!"
Elton John and his partner David Furnish were not present (the former is on tour with Billy Joel and the latter called in sick), so Gaga accepted amfAR's award for their efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS on their behalf.
"I know they'd so much like to be here," Gaga told the audience, which included Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Julianne Margulies, Iman, and Brooke Shields. "I recently became good friends with them, and you get to feel like they're someone you've known your whole life, and you've wanted to know your whole life. It's fitting this award is about courage, because Elton was for me someone who represented a fearlessness to be who you are, and speak for the things you believe in, and really stand up for what you believe in. I will tell them you all said hello"
Meanwhile, Lauper dispelled rumors that she and Gaga were about to record a duet altogether, although she didn't rule out a future collaboration. "We might do something," she said. "I'd like it to be not just a commercial project, but maybe an art project. An installation or something. I'd have to see."
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