updated 05/24/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/24/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Styler, 50, didn't need much of an excuse for her latest bash: a star-studded gala she threw in New York City last month that raised $2 million for the Rainforest Foundation, which she and Sting, 52, cofounded in 1989. Onstage at Carnegie Hall, Styler pals Michael J. Fox, Antonio Banderas, James Taylor and Bette Midler belted out classic tunes such as "Pennies from Heaven," "Johnny B. Goode," and "That's Amore." Elton John even donned a bird's beak to sing the Woody Woodpecker song. With her charm and energy, Styler "can pretty much get people to do what she wants," says her actress friend Melanie Griffith. "She's so cool and witty." Styler's ability to mastermind the show (her 12th) while keeping tabs on four children, several homes and acting and producing gigs leaves her husband in awe. "It looks like she's juggling chain saws half the day," says Sting.
The juggling begins at their Wiltshire, England, estate, where Styler works to keep the children—Mickey, 20, Jake, 19, Coco, 13, and Giacomo, 8—grounded. The kids have each been responsible for minding their own gardens, as well as their manners. "Maybe I'm a little bit overly conscious of them saying 'please' and 'thank you,'" Styler says. The tight ship she runs has left an impression. "She's Wonder Woman, I swear," says daughter Mickey.
Styler says she's always conscious that "I came from the world of the have-nots into the haves." She grew up working-class in Stoke Prior, England, with her mother, Pauline, and father, Harry, who was a farmer turned factory worker. He died in 2000 of lung disease. "His happiness was to be in the open fields. One of my joys of being on my farm is I can think of my dad in his happy days," says Styler.
She grew up wanting to act and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1979 she met Sting, then wed to another RSC actress (they divorced a few years later). The two have been at each other's side ever since, marrying in 1992. "We make each other royally laugh," says Styler. And yes, "we have a great sex life"—though, despite what she told Howard Stern recently, there's no partner-swapping. (Styler says she was only "joshing.")
While she has worked as a movie producer on films like Snatch, Styler's heart lies with the Rainforest Foundation, which she and Sting launched after seeing the destruction of Brazil's rainforests in 1987. The foundation has funded projects in several countries to preserve rainforests and support indigenous people. Styler works with foundation directors and serves as a fund-raising force. Amid all the stars at the concert, "the biggest applause," notes Sting, "was for her."
Bob Meadows. Natasha Stoynoff in New York City