Ed Pilkington

TORONTO: The Royal York hotel here is used to catering to the whims of the rich. It offers a package for VIPs very important pets including a puppy welcome kit and canine room service.

So it was unfazed when 600 guests drawn from what the organisers described as the "big money sets" of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, together with visitors from across the U.S., began to gather on Saturday night. They were drawn to the hotel's Canada room not only for the compering by Kevin Spacey or the jokes of Billy Crystal, and you do not pay up to $200,000 a table just for a dessert of cupcakes. The lure was Bill Clinton, and the event is the celebration of the former President's 60th birthday.

The function was a celebration of his status as celebrity philanthropist. Since leaving the White House in 2001 at the age of 55, he has turned his premature retirement into a global charitable business. Here he was set to raise $2.5 million for the Clinton Foundation which campaigns, among other causes, for affordable AIDS treatment in Africa. Next month he will hold a second "birthday party," a Rolling Stones concert in New York.

For the past week Clinton has been locked in a tussle with ABC TV over a docudrama focussing on his administration's failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006