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Cannes: Amid celebrity show offs, $30 million raised at AIDS gala

CAP D'ANTIBES, France -- Amid celebrity show offs, indiscreet liaisons, and the aggressive banging of a hammer -- the French Riviera's annual, star-filled amfAR gala brought in its expected share of drama -- with celebrity invitees including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marion Cotillard, Sienna Miller and Adrien Brody.

But, importantly, Thursday's celebrity auction in Antibes raised in excess of $30 million for the fight against AIDS, a cause for which the Elizabeth Taylor fought until her death in 2011.

But where was Sharon Stone?


The highlight of the celebrity auction was the sale, at 12 million euros ($13.4 million,) of artist Jeff Koons' "Coloring Book" sculpture to Russian billionaire Leonard Blavatnik. It was installed and much-admired by guests at the event venue, the Hotel Du Cap-Eden Roc hotel.

Art-collector-cum-"Titanic" star DiCaprio donated a work from his personal collection by enigmatic British street artist Banksy -- bought for 1 million euros ($1.1 million.)


The normal auction host, "Basic Instinct" star Sharon Stone was nowhere to be seen, prompting some guests to comment on whether the exuberant actress' absence was due to persistently rumored ill health.

But in a statement to The Associated Press, the 57-year-old said that she could not "attend due to work commitments."

"I am grateful that on this my 20th year with amFar, we have become a solid community that has grown to the point of functioning and succeeding in fundraising and HIV/AIDS awareness," she added.

Model-of-the-minute Karlie Kloss tried her best, at moments during the presentation on stage, to add the necessary charismatic punch to the auction proceedings.


A beauteous, but motley, crew of petite Eva Longoria and towering Lara Stone and Karlie Kloss burst into an a cappella version of "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, while on the cocktail carpet of the amfAR event.

Needless to say, it attracted attention from hungry photographers.

While Kloss said that her Spice Girl of preference would be "Sporty," the others told The AP that they wanted more original names.

"Desperate Housewives" star Longoria said she was "Blatina Spice," while model-of-the-minute Stone preferred the dubious "Old Spice."

Stone's comment was ironic, referring to the male cologne, but perhaps also a tad risky since the fashion world is so age-conscious and cut-throat.


New York art dealer David Benrimon donated a Pablo Picasso sketch that raised 700,000 euros ($781,000), and a Fernando Botero sculpture that raised two million euros ($2.23 million.)

"Elizabeth Taylor started the foundation and it's saved millions of lives. Now we will have, I really believe, an HIV cure by 2020," he said.

"It's not superficial, people here are real," he added.


"12 Years a Slave" actor Michael Fassbender star had heads turnings as he was very prominently chatting, up close, to beautiful Madalina Ghenea, for 20 minutes at the center of the amfAR marquee.

Ghenea, 26, a Romanian model turned actress grabbed attention at the Cannes Film Festival by featuring nude on the provocative poster for the film "Youth," with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel.

She drew more attention on the Cannes red carpet in a white mermaid gown for the movie's premiere.

Following the intimate chat with Fassbender, Ghenea was seen having an argument with another, older, man.


Singer Charli XCX was followed by legendary diva Mary J. Blige, who at first wowed crowds with a rousing performance of a "Family Affair," then dashed the hopes of many by leaving stage after five minutes.

Picking up the baton, the rousing British band "Imagine Dragons" delivered an outstanding performance, standing on tables, and at one point had a drunken lady snatch a mike from them on stage.


Former French Vogue Editor Carine Roitfeld curated a glamorous fashion show, featuring the world's top models, who sported designs from the world's most important houses such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and Armani.

"There's nothing in the world that's more chic than being charitable," she said, dedicating this year's collection to Jacqueline Onassis, Jean Shrimpton, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

The highlight of the catwalk show, apart from Roitfeld high-fiving most of the models as they passed, was the Giambattista Valli silk cloque dress with sequin embroidered flowers, and a great bow on the bust.

The whole collection was bought for 800,00 euros ($891,000.)


Actor Antonio Banderas joked about the auction.

The "Mask of Zorro" actor was reticent about committing any money to the lots.

"I don't think so. I'm coming out of a very strong divorce," he told The AP.


Britain's Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, 55, made a very unexpected appearance at the glitzy event.

The former confidante of the late Princess Diana, and Weight Watchers icon, grabbed attention in a V-neck coral gown with choker, which showed off her recent weight loss.

She said that she liked to use her prominent position for good - despite having been a persona non grata by the British Royal Family for several years.

"Giving back is close to my heart and I think it's important when you're on the public stage to be able to spread the awareness," she said, posing very unexpectedly for cameras with heiress Paris Hilton.


John C. Reilly.

He's one of the busiest men in Cannes this year, with three films in Official Selection.

But that only seemed to spur on the 49-year-old actor at the amfAR after-party, who was recognized for his energetic dancing -- which continued all night long.

The DJ played a sequence of hits, including Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But it was Reilly's exuberant dancing that pulled in the eyeballs.