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Thunderstorm cuts short star-studded opening of flashy Austrian AIDS gala

VIENNA (AP) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and others ran for cover Saturday as the opening of a flashy Austrian AIDS gala was cut short by a fierce thunderstorm.

Appearances by Clinton, burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese and Patti LaBelle had to be skipped after authorities issued a weather warning and ordered the packed square in front of Vienna's city hall to be cleared.

The 18th annual party — a fundraiser for people with HIV and AIDS — each year attracts thousands of revelers in quirky costumes who dance until dawn in the vast neo-gothic building — often wearing nothing more than the bare minimum.

Take Hans Peter Aigner, a 44-year-old from Innsbruck, whose outfit consisted of white and blue body paint, black patent leather plateau boots and tiny white hot pants.

"This is my twelfth Life Ball — We're never going to miss another one," he said, motioning to a group of friends in similarly sparse attire.

Saturday night's show also should have included an address by actress Whoopi Goldberg and a video message from Sharon Stone, as well as a fashion show with designs by Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg.

But those lucky enough to have tickets to enter city hall didn't seem too perturbed about missing all that due to the downpour.

"It's just a shame for those who can't be here — this is great," said 30-year-old Maha Elaser as she and a friend — both dressed in strategically placed fake leaves, among other things — enjoyed a drink under an awning in the courtyard as live music acts performed throughout the building.

This year's bash served as a prelude to an international AIDS conference that kicks off in Vienna Sunday and is expected to draw thousands of policymakers, activists and experts.

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Online:

The Life Ball: http://www.lifeball.org

(This version CORRECTS Subs 5th graf to correct quote, ADD color. This story is part of AP's general news and entertainment services. For global distribution.)