(Adds colour, Clinton quote)
By Derek Brooks
VIENNA May 31 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst
topped the bill at Vienna's Life Ball on Saturday night,
outshining guests such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton,
actress Lindsay Lohan and designer Vivienne Westwood at Europe's
biggest AIDS charity event.
This year's Life Ball took place as the Austrian capital
basked in the victory of the bearded drag queen Wurst earlier
this month, which has at least temporarily given it a self-image
as a hotbed of tolerance.
A partygoer who identified himself as Aaron, covered in
glitter and topless but for a pair of nipple pasties, said the
victory of Wurst - due to perform her winning power ballad "Rise
Like A Phoenix" later in the night - had changed the atmosphere.
"I've been here four times before, but this one is by far
the best. Usually we hide ourselves before coming to the ball,
but this year we can walk openly," he said.
Skimpy costumes were de rigeur, and guests wearing outfits
the organisers' "style police" judged to be exceptional could
win half-price admission to the Vienna ball. Tickets are
normally distributed by a lottery and cost 160 euros ($220).
"I feel so poorly dressed," joked Clinton, sporting
conventional evening wear, in opening remarks.
The Life Ball raised about 2.4 million euros ($3.3 million)
last year, much of it donated to the Clinton Health Access
Initiative to treat and reduce HIV infections in children.
The event this year is inspired by the 15th-century
Hieronymus Bosch triptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights",
which depicts hedonistic revellers in its centre panel and the
Garden of Eden and hell on either side.
The ball has drawn criticism for using Bosch-like posters
featuring a nude transgender model, Carmen Carrera. Photographer
David LaChapelle designed two versions, showing Carrera with
either male or female genitalia, along with the slogan: "I am
Adam - I am Eve - I am me." In response, a vigilante granny has
attracted media attention by going around defacing the exposed
Life Ball organiser Gery Keszler said the poster was
intended to provoke discussion, not to exploit Wurst's
'BRINGING EVERYBODY TOGETHER'
"The goal of the poster was to reach a dialogue, but the
reaction was bigger than we thought," Keszler told Reuters. "For
one night, Vienna seems like the centre of tolerance because the
Life Ball brings everybody together. Not everything in the world
is black or white, it is all a spectrum, and we wanted to
present that," he said in an interview.
Other celebrity guests include Courtney Love, Kesha, and
"Desperate Housewives" actress Marcia Cross.
The annual ball, now in its 22nd year, has grown from a
small gay-community event to a celebrity-studded society
fixture. Its cost-free venue, the neo-Gothic Vienna city hall,
is the first government building to host an AIDS-related event.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over 70 percent of the
world's HIV-positive people out of an estimated total of 35
million living with the disease worldwide.
According to the United Nations, 2.3 million contracted new
HIV infections in 2012 and 1.6 million people died of
($1 = 0.7345 Euros)
(Reporting by Derek Brooks; Editing by Michael Roddy, Larry
King and Peter Cooney)