The Moulin Rouge, the city's oldest cabaret, celebrated its 100th birthday and raised money for AIDS research during a lavish dinner show featuring performances by American and French celebrities.
Champagne flowed and dancing girls did the can-can during the festivities Friday night, billed as "Gala of the Century."The largely French-American audience included singers Ella Fitzgerald and Charles Trenet on stage, and Paloma Picasso and Roman Polanski in the audience.
The 900 guests paid $550 each to attend the benefit, sponsored by the Fondation France-Liberte. Beaming her approval throughout was the foundation's president, Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French president.
"Welcome to the Moulin Rouge, the heart and soul of Paris," said comedian Jerry Lewis, who wisecracked his way through the introduction, comparing the famous can-can dancers to "Rockettes on steroids."
Actress Dorothy Lamour, who said her grandmother was from Toulouse, recalled her days of starring in the road pictures with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. "I wish I'd made `On the road to Paris,' " she said.
She introduced actor Donald O'Connor, who soft-shoed and sang his way through a nostalgic homage to Maurice Chevalier.
Actress Esther Williams, the movies' swimming queen of the 1950s, wore a long black gown instead of her swimsuit to take the stage with former Olympic star Greg Louganis and introduce the water ballet in a plastic pool onstage performed by this year's sparkling mermaid, Pascale Deschamps.
Anita Baker, Jane Russell and Tony Curtis sang or told jokes from the stage. Ms. Fitzgerald, "the first lady of song," got a standing ovation, and her jazzy jam session with knee-slapping Ray Charles brought the house down.