Unfurling the Red Carpet for ASF Fundraiser

Emmy winning actor Leslie Jordan entertainer at last year’s Red Ball.

Elizabeth Taylor would love it. Hundreds of her admirers in their most glamorous garb gather to pay homage to her beauty, glamour and contribution to the HIV-AIDS community at this year’s Red Ball II, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, on the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach.

Like last year’s first Red Ball, it’s a sumptuously staged successor to the locally legendary Splash extravaganzas that began in 1985. The impromptu fundraiser for the Orange County AIDS Services Foundation overfilled the backyard pool of Ken Jillson and Al Roberts, the organization’s founding board member and president, respectively. The last of the often-hilarious musical Splash spoofs and its cross-dressing cast took place in 2009, using an above ground pool on a stage at the Festival of Arts.

Themed “Hollywood Royalty,” this year’s festivities are dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Taylor, the iconic actress whose early efforts in focusing public attention to HIV-AIDS set her apart. She donated gowns and jewelry that were auctioned at earlier Splash events and raised six-figure sums for ASF, said Jillson.

In 2002, Taylor appeared, accompanied by pop star Michael Jackson at “Art for Aids” at the Laguna Art Museum.

She will be honored with a video presentation highlighting clips from her numerous hit movies including “Giant,” the 1956 blockbuster production that paired her with heartthrob Rock Hudson, who reportedly frequented the now defunct Boom Boom Room gay nightclub. Hudson’s death from AIDS spurred Taylor’s activism.

The evening will begin with a cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction of items donated by the area’s hotels, restaurants and boutiques. Guests will be able to bid on trip to New York City, a Tiffany men’s watch, two nights at the St. Regis, Monarch Beach, among other items. A live auction will offer destination and experience packages, such as a falconry experience at Laguna’s Montage resort.

Proceeds from the live and silent auctions will augment ticket proceeds designated for ASF’s client services that annually help more than 1,600 people and their families that are living with HIV-AIDS in Orange County.

After the 8 p.m. dinner, guests will also be entertained with Hollywood and Broadway spoofs starring Jason Grae, Nicolette Robinson and Mondo Guerro, a former TV star turned fashion designer.

Last year’s Red Ball attracted 450 guests and raised more than $300,000 for ASF services.

“This is a fabulous opportunity to pay tribute to Elizabeth Taylor after she passed away earlier this year. Her generosity and unsparing efforts to bring public attention to AIDS-HIV deserve our gratitude,” said Jillson.

Tickets can be purchased at www.ocasf.org.

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