In tough times, Cannes charity gala gets personal

Reuters News

6/7/2012 3:12:53 PM - Reuters News

By Mike Collett-White

ANTIBES, France (Reuters) - At a time of economic uncertainty, the glitziest charity gala at the Cannes film festival got personal.

Each year at the luxurious Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, just along the coast from Cannes, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, invites the famous and fabulously wealthy for a night of fine food, fine wine, dancing and giving.

This year Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson, Kirsten Dunst and Adrien Brody were among the stars to grace the black tie event late on Thursday and into the early hours of Friday.

The celebrity auction held during dinner got off to a slow start, prompting those with the microphone to cajole, abuse and name and shame to ramp up the prices.

"We're talking austerity prices, and I'm disappointed quite frankly," said the auctioneer when offers for a Cartier watch were not forthcoming.

Eventually co-host and model Heidi Klum threw in a free massage to the winning bidder. The add-on appeared to do the trick, and the time piece went for 65,000 euros ($82,000).

"Come on you tight bastards!" shouted U.S. comedian Chris Tucker, who was on stage to sell a collection of 1911 Moet & Chandon vintage champagne. The final price was 150,000 euros.

U.S. director Brett Ratner resorted to the name-and-shame game when auctioning a Jean Pigozzi photograph of Annie Leibovitz and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards from 1979.

He said Pigozzi's villa was "better than the Hotel-Du-Crap", and singled out several high-profile names in the audience of more than 800 revelers enjoying a sit-down dinner in a giant marquee.

"You made me rich so I know you're really rich," he called to Tucker, who starred in his successful "Rush Hour" action series. Financier Nathaniel Rothschild was also urged to bid.

"I know that the European economy is in a bad way this year, I understand," Ratner said. "But this is for a good cause."

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the main host for the evening, then turned the tables on the film maker.

"Brett Ratner makes $7 million a movie," he said, taking the stage. "Sold to Brett Ratner!" he added, raising the director's hand in the air. The photograph set him back 160,000 euros.

From then on the prices headed north.

An original Damien Hirst piece entitled "Beautiful Nectar Painting", 2007, fetched 700,000 euros, and an Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe went for 600,000 euros.

Designer Karl Lagerfeld committed to shooting two short films starring winning bidders, raising a combined 850,000 euros, and a collection of more than 20 black dresses, modeled in a fashion show mid-way through the evening, raised 300,000 euros.

In the end, as the guests filed out of the marquee to dance the night away at the sea-side pool, the world's financial woes appeared to have been forgotten.

The gala raised nearly $11 million for the AIDS charity, its highest total ever.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)