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Cole, Stone encourage charity at Cannes amFAR event

CANNES — American Foundation for AIDS research’s (amfAR) fundraiser Cinema Against AIDS collected more than $4 million last week from industryites at its annual Cannes fest-timed soiree on Thursday.

Opening the Moulin de Mougin affair on a sober note, amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole noted this year is the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS and that 25 million have died of the disease. Cole’s wish for the night: “I hope you leave a little energized and poorer.”

“I have had it,” added longtime event emcee Sharon Stone. “Twelve million people had AIDS when I took up this job.” Today U.N. statistics set that figure at more than 40 million.

Robin Williams provided most of the evening’s comic relief. Starting by helping the wait staff move guests from cocktails to dinner by running around with a “dinner is served” sign, Williams quipped freely throughout the auction.

When Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson auctioned off a Gotham package that included a dinner with her, aka “the Duchess of New York,” Williams interjected he’d throw in “two queens from the Bronx.”

Williams also opened his own pocketbook. He treated the crowd to an impromptu $80,000 set by Wyclef Jean, and won the bidding for a custom-made Giorgio Armani necklace modeled by Ziyi Zhang. “I just bought a small black diamond coke vial!” he blurted out in mock horror.

Pic bizzers on hand included stalwart amfAR supporter Harvey Weinstein, along with fellow event sponsors Michel Litvak of Bold Films and Palisades Pictures’ Vin Roberti.

Only hitch of the night was the attitude of the French security guards, who had been ordered to pen in exiting guests to prevent overflow to the street outside of the rural venue. After being strong-armed and mocked, Nu Image/Millennium Films topper Avi Lerner hopped the barricades and left in disgust, while Weinstein waited at the back of the cattle herd.

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