'Berlusconi girl' stuns Austrian ball

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The TV cameras were told to ignore her and Austria's rich and powerful sought to avoid her.

But amid all the bling on display at the Vienna Opera Ball, most eyes were still on one particular jewel - Ruby.



With Ruby, aka Karima el-Mahroug, at the centre of the scandal plaguing Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, her scheduled appearance at Austria's ball of balls last night was a sensation most of the wealthy and influential guests present would have been happy to do without.



State TV was initially ordered to avoid covering her, but with the Berlusconi scandal big news, she was hard to keep out of sight, let alone out of mind.



Ruby's comments on the eve of the ball added to Vienna high society's bad case of nerves.



"I can't waltz," she told reporters before pausing for effect, adding with a smile: "I can only belly dance."



For centuries, Vienna's high society has waltzed blissfully through wars, recessions and firebomb-throwing anarchists opposed to the moneyed decadence they think such events represent.



But it has never had to deal with an 18-year-old dancer said to have been paid by Mr Berlusconi for sex while she was still under age.



The ripples caused by her presence relegated Libya's revolution and other top news events to the back pages of Austria's newspapers.



Vienna's top priest was drawn into the fray, citing scripture in favour of her attendance and the ball's organiser threatened to ban Richard Lugner, the quirky 78-year old millionaire who invited her and former Dallas star Larry Hagman.



To underestimate the uproar is to ignore the place that the Vienna Opera Ball holds in the hearts of Austrians.



It is THE event of the annual ball season that stretches from autumn into late winter. Watched on TV by millions from home, champagne-sipping government leaders hobnob with captains of industry from ornate boxes high above the main floor of the State Opera, while the less wealthy and influential crowd tables below.



Their hands daintily perched on those of their male partners, debutantes - daughters of the rich and famous - celebrate their coming out into the privileged upper echelons by opening the festivities with a lilting waltz.



Some of Mr Lugner's past guests among a panoply of Hollywood actresses and other lookers had already raised carefully-plucked opera ball eyebrows. He hosted porn star Dolly Buster in 1999 and burlesque artist Dita von Teese three years ago.



But his choice of Ruby - after actress Bo Derek backed out - was simply too much for some in Vienna, where parents of the moneyed class still send their kids to manners courses.



Mr Berlusconi was indicted last month on charges that he paid for sex with Ruby when she was under age, then used his influence to cover it up. Both have denied having a sexual relationship.



Mr Lugner - who is reported to have paid £34,000 for her appearance - said he did not understand the fuss.



"If Berlusconi liked her, she's good enough for the Opera Ball," he said.



But ball organiser Desiree Treichl-Stuerkh, said she was a "prostitute involved in ongoing legal proceedings against Berlusconi" - and as such, persona non-grata.



She said Mr Lugner would not be given an opera box next year, adding her office had fielded calls from prominent ball-goers asking how they could avoid being filmed or photographed with the Moroccan teenager.



Her predecessor Lotte Tobisch said Ruby's presence "is wrecking the Opera Ball", while Wolfgang Lorenz, the state broadcaster's head of programming who issued the coverage ban, warned against "turning the festivities into a hookers' ball".



But Toni Faber, a ball-goer and head priest at Vienna's St Stephen's Cathedral, sided with Ruby.



Warning against hypocrisy he cited Jesus in newspaper interviews, declaring "the tax collectors and the prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God ahead of you".

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering