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.
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.