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AmFAR Gala Hits 20

Croisette benefit to fight AIDS includes kiss-and-tell memories

Year after year, one organization has been using the Cannes Film Festival to combine goodwill and glamour: amfAR’s Cinema Against Aids gala, held amid lavish surroundings and glamorous couture gowns at the exclusive Hotel du Cap, brings together stars, filmmakers and fashionistas in support of AIDS research, HIV prevention and treatment education.

This year’s May 23 event figures to be particularly memorable, marking the 20th anniversary of the gala, which has raised $80 million during its two decades. Among this year’s chairs are Sharon Stone, Jessica Chastain, Heidi Klum and longtime supporter Harvey Weinstein, who was a guest at the first Cinema Against Aids.

“(AmfAR makes) notable contributions to the field of HIV/AIDS research and prevention, of course, but their outreach is unique in that they’re also extremely involved in public policy, legislation, patients’ rights and medical education,” Weinstein says. “Working with the likes of Dr. (Mathilde) Krim, Elizabeth Taylor, Stone and most recently Kenneth Cole on such a worthy cause has truly been one of the highlights of my career.”

The late Taylor, who was the founding international chairman, hosted the first event in 1993, when 100 people squeezed into the Moulin de Mougins restaurant. During that dinner, guests raised around $100,000 for the charity. The event’s initial supporters included Cher, Demi Moore, Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley.

As the Cannes event succeeded, it grew even larger, reaching 800 guests, with a live auction adding an element of drama.

“You never know what to expect,” Weinstein says. The exec notes he’s looking forward to more outrageous charitable comeons, like the year George Clooney raised $700,000 by kissing two bidders’ girlfriends (pictured above), or the time Ryan Gosling raised $30,000 to kiss Weinstein. Contrary to what Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams might say, “It wasn’t all that,” Weinstein maintains.

AmfAR receives auction items in advance to be listed in a catalog for guests. Things get more interesting, though, when the celebs offer impromptu ideas, as when Madonna auctioned off her Chanel purse and its contents for $486,000. Another year, a sensual massage from Klum to James Caan went for $31,000.

This year, a portrait-sitting with Annie Leibovitz will be among the items auctioned off, as well as an Andy Warhol print of Taylor. Last year, the gala raised nearly $11 million, a record-breaking total for amfAR. Given that during the past 20 years, nearly every every major international celebrity at Cannes has attended the event, another starry night figures to take a shot at that mark.

“I look forward to this year’s Cinema Against AIDS gala for the same reason as always,” Weinstein says. “This event is an incredible opportunity for some of the most visible entertainers and entrepreneurs in the world to step away from the wheelings and dealings of the Cannes Film Festival, and lend that visibility to a very human, very worthwhile cause.”

AMORO US AMFAR (Pictured): George Clooney made the 2007 event more interesting when he auctioned off a kiss during the always entertaining live auction portion of the evening.

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