VIENNA (Reuters) - Rock star-turned-aid advocate Bob Geldof is looking forward to bumping into the nightclub dancer linked to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when she graces a ball in Vienna on Thursday.
Karima el Mahroug — an 18-year-old known by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heartstealer) — is the special guest of 78-year-old Vienna construction magnate and socialite Richard Lugner at the glittering Opera Ball.
Ruby has become a focus of an investigation into Berlusconi back in Italy, where he has been ordered to stand trial on charges of paying an underage girl for sex and abusing his position to get her out of police custody.
Geldof, 59, in town to promote an album and meet the Austrian chancellor, said he decided to attend the Opera Ball on a whim.
“I thought to myself, well, if I’m already here I might as well go. And guess who is also going? Ruby!” he told the Austria Press Agency in an interview.
The event is the highlight of Vienna’s packed ball season and is a mixture of champagne-fueled fun and intense high-society networking attended by Austrian politicians, aristocrats, celebrities and top executives.
“As I am in Vienna, I should waltz, it is like going up the Eiffel Tower when you are in Paris,” Geldof said, adding that he did not think he would get a chance on the dance floor with Ruby, whose appearance at the ball has caused a stir in Vienna.
“Her dance card will definitely already be very full this evening.”
Ruby told a news conference on Wednesday that she wanted to put aside the Berlusconi scandal at the Opera Ball and enjoy the company of her “wonderful” host Lugner.
She warned that she could not waltz, only belly dance, but would give the traditional Viennese step a try anyway.
Austrian media have reported Lugner is paying her 40,000 euros ($55,500) for her appearance.
Ball organizer Desiree Treichl-Stuergkh has berated Lugner for his choice of guest, calling it “sad, shameful and impious,” and said Ruby was a tragic victim.
Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Paul Casciato