March 03, 1997 12:00 PM

NEITHER PARENTHOOD NOR PENDING surgery could keep Hollywood partygoers from their appointed rounds—at least not when the occasion was a black-tie benefit to celebrate Liz Taylor’s 65th birthday. Two days before checking into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Feb. 18 for tests preceding the removal of a benign brain tumor, a diamond-bedecked Taylor strolled hand-in-hand with new papa Michael Jackson into the Pantages Theatre to accept many happy returns—including more than $1 million for her AIDS foundation. For as much as $1,000 a ticket, the starry crowd of 2,300 was treated to hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and entertainment by Friends of Liz, including Whoopi Goldberg, Rod Stewart and Jackson. (A two-hour special taped during the gala will air on ABC Feb. 24.) “No one was really that surprised when [Michael] came out,” says guest Leeza Gibbons with a laugh. “But everyone was like, ‘Where’s the baby?’ ”

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