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Venice fetes AmFAR

Stone, Gere keep clothing on to help raise over $500,000

VENICE — In the dining hall of a 17th century monastery where Franciscan monks who took a vow of poverty once ate their humble suppers, Venetian society and Hollywood glamour sat down to lobster and champagne at an AIDS fund-raising dinner and auction organized by AmFAR Aug. 31 in Venice.

Richard Gere, Carey Lowell, Dennis Hopper, Robert Altman, Laura Linney, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Milos Forman, Atom Egoyan and Chiara Mastroianni were among the well-heeled guests in the magnificently restored monastery and cloisters, which now serve as the Fondazione Giorgio Cini.

Having honed her auctioneering skills during similar AmFAR fund-raisers over the past few years, Sharon Stone worked the crowd like a true pro, prompting guests to open their wallets and cough up $255,000 for the items on sale.

The auction, along with ticket sales to the dinner, raised more than $500,000 for the charity.

“Some of you are in evening gowns that cost more than this,” she quipped when the bidding flagged. “Don’t make me point you out.”

Auctioned items included pieces by several renowned Italian artists and a vanity case designed by Stone for Louis Vuitton, which fetched $16,000.

The highest price tag paid during the evening was the $150,000 slapped down by Stone herself for a portrait of herself to be painted by artist Julian Schnabel, in town for the world premiere of his film “Before Night Falls” in competition at the 57th Venice Intl. Film Festival.

Celebrating his birthday while in Venice for the competition premiere of Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women,” Gere took the stage to auction an environmental award presented to him by the city of Venice.

The handblown Murano glass sculpture of a winged lion was snapped up for $11,500. Stone offered to throw in a photo of herself and Gere with the statue, specifying, “That’s us with our clothes on.”

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