AmFAR is victorious at Venice

Org raises $700,000 through tickets, silent auction

VENICE — While the live auction was a low-key affair in which the crowd of well-heeled Venetians kept their wallets clamped shut, the American Foundation for AIDS Research raised $700,000 through ticket sales and a silent auction at its second Cinema Against AIDS Venice dinner Friday at the 58th Venice Intl. Film Festival.

The highest-priced item of the evening was a white gold, topaz and diamond necklace from event sponsor Bulgari, snapped up for $27,000 by Fabrizio Lombardo, head of Miramax’s Italian division. He credited Elizabeth Taylor, who chaired the evening, with inspiring him to up the bidding.

“I told Liz Taylor if she gave me a kiss I’d go higher, and she did,” Lombardo said. “I didn’t buy it for anyone in particular, but I’ll hang onto it for the right person, or maybe give it to my mamma.”

Along with the inspirational kiss, guests around the room speculated that the Hollywood diva and the Italian exec may share the same hair colorist.

Among those in town for the Venice fest and on hand to lend support for AmFAR were Jack Valenti, Nicole Kidman and “The Others” director Alejandro Amenabar, “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” star Charlize Theron and producer Letty Aronson, competition jury member Taylor Hackford and Portia de Rossi, repping Bruce Wagner’s “Women in Film.” Claudia Schiffer served as auctioneer.

Looking blissfully out of place in the formal environment of the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore were “Bully” cast members Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Nick Stahl and Rachel Miner. The young thesps appeared to be still in character from their roles in Larry Clark’s competition entry about wild and wayward youth.

Since the inaugural event in 1993, AmFAR’s Cinema Against AIDS galas held during the Cannes, Venice and Sundance Film Festivals have generated more than $10 million for AIDS research. Past hosts include Sharon Stone, Demi Moore and Elton John.

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