May 22, 2015 9:32 am
Updated: May 22, 2015 9:36 am

Star-studded AIDS gala raises $30M

Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan, pictured on May 21, 2015.

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CAP D’ANTIBES, France – Amid celebrity schmoozing, glamourous fashions, musical performances and the frequent banging of the auction 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, Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sienna Miller and Adrien Brody.

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But, importantly, Thursday’s celebrity auction in Cap d’Antibes, at the luxurious Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc, raised in excess of $30 million for the fight against AIDS, a cause for which Elizabeth Taylor, one of the organization’s founders, fought until her death in 2011. The late icon figured prominently into the hours-long event, as an Andy Warhol portrait of her was auction off — and quickly snapped up by Eva Longoria for $600,000.

Here are some other highlights from the starry night:

JEFF KOONS CAPS ART SALES

The highlight of the celebrity auction was the sale, at about 11.6 million euros ($13 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 about 986,000 euros ($1.1 million). He also donated a gala ticket for his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation charity event in St. Tropez, including a private dinner with him; that sold for 205,000 ($280,000).

Canadian designers Dean and Dan Caten with model Anja Rubik.

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WHY WAS SHARON STONE NOT THERE?

The longtime amfAR auction host Sharon Stone was nowhere to be seen, a surprise, given her intense dedication to the event.

But in a statement to The Associated Press sent by amfAR, 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.

Instead of one host, there were many, as stars ranging from Michelle Rodriguez to Kendall Jenner tried to cajole the deep-pocketed crowd to bid on items.

Supermodel. Karlie Kloss was perhaps the most animated, at several points shaming the audience when she considered a bid too low.

THE (NON-)SPICE GIRLS REUNION

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 “Latina 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.

AIDS CURE BY 2020

New York art dealer David Benrimon donated a Pablo Picasso sketch that raised 719,000 euros (about $800,000), and a Fernando Botero sculpture that raised two million euros ($2.2 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.

Marion Cottilard and Michael Fassbender

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MICHAEL FASSBENDER MAKES A CONNECTION

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 centre of the amfAR marquee.

Ghenea, 26, a Romanian model turned actress has grabbed attention at the Cannes Film Festival for her role as a Miss Universe in the film Youth, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, including a memorable nude scene. Fassbender and the beauty have known each other for a while; the pair were seen holding hands together a year ago.

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

Charli XCX

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MUSIC MAKES THE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER

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 Vegas band Imagine Dragons delivered an outstanding performance as they performed hits like “Radioactive,” electrifying the crowd as lead singer Dan Reynolds went into the crowd and sang. Reynolds also had a persistent admirer, as an apparently inebriated woman grabbed hold of him twice, at one point snatching the mic from his hand before security led her away.

But the biggest ovation came courtesy of Andrea Bocelli. The classical/pop singer had the crowd on their feet for sustained applause after he performed one song. He particularly moved two people in the crowd, who purchased a dinner with the singer at his home for $1 milllion each.

FASHION SHOW, DARLING

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 about 900,000 euros (about $1 million.)

Antonio Banderas

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MONEY, MONEY, MONEY (DIVORCE)

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.

Bandera’ wife Melanie Griffith filed for divorce last year after 18 years of marriage.

Sarah Ferguson

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WHY WAS BRITAIN’S FERGIE THERE?

Britain’s Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, 55, made an 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.

“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 for cameras with heiress Paris Hilton.

John C. Reilly

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AND THE AFTER-PARTY BELONGED TO…

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.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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