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Liza's smashing voice helps net some big bucks for AIDS research

The Baltimore Sun

The AmfAR fundraiser in Manhattan's Rainbow Room went off with a bang the other eve and the piece de resistance of the entire event, under the elegant head guy Kenneth Cole, was the appearance of Liza Minnelli who brought the place alive.

Liza was in excellent form. The ebullient star is busy channeling her late godmother, Kay Thompson, for material she'll incorporate into a new club act. (Ms. Thompson was a creative genius of the '50s/'60s, wrote the Eloise books and influenced Judy Garland's latter-day performing style, and you may remember her as the fashion editor who sings "Think Pink" in the movie Funny Face.)

At any rate, Liza is off to South America as we speak to raise more money for AmfAR. The names of Dr. Mathilde Krim, Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman and Madonna were liberally sprinkled throughout this glamorous night. All of them, plus Bill Clinton and Bono, are in on solving the international AIDS crisis.

At the end of the night, Mr. Cole brought Liza to the stage again and offered that she'd sing if 10 stalwarts anteed up $5,000 each for the privilege. Ten of them did, and Liza posed for a photo with AmfAR's benefactors. She offered Gershwin's immortal "Our Love Is Here to Stay." AmfAR went home $50,000 richer!

Worldly observations

Complaints worldwide: Romania, for instance. I asked a friend who just made a movie there in the countryside - How was it? "Loveless ... depressed ... run by gangsters from all over Europe and the Middle East ... a totally lawless culture!"

And from the gorgeous French Riviera, here's a veteran of the high life. How's the summer? I asked. "Run by and ruined by Russian gangsters and oligarchs who are buying up every villa, every scrap of land, every cafe, every business. And their big boats, which are too gigantic to be moored so they have to use other smaller boats to get ashore, are befouling the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. These gangsters are invariably accompanied by groups of some of the most beautiful but young teenage Russian girls you've ever seen. The whole scene is shocking!"

But don't be discouraged, friends. Read Newsweek dated June 11 for the brilliant Fareed Zakaria's encouraging article about how the United States is falsely in the grip of terrorist fears when actually things are much better than we have any right to expect. This is titled "Beyond Bush: What the World Needs Is an Open, Confident America." Highly recommended if you want to think positive.

So long, farewell

The Council on Foreign Relations bid a fond goodbye to its chairman of 22 years - my pal Pete Peterson - and unveiled a handsome portrait of the Blackstone co-founder. He was extolled as a financial genius, a thinker, patriot, philanthropist and a great family man. Among those singing his praises were his daughter, Holly, and Ted Sorenson. There were many laughs in this fine evening on Park Avenue, especially when Ted roasted Pete with: "Pete is a self-made man who worships his creator!"

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