Sharon Stone wasn’t getting the bids that she wanted.
Around midnight on Friday night in France, after a dazzling fashion show on the lawn of a mansion in Antibes, the actor-turned-emcee was auctioning off 32 one-of-a-kind gowns by designers such as Versace, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy and Balenciaga at the amfAR Cannes gala.
Joined onstage by the 32 models who’d walked a makeshift runway — which was so slippery, two of them had tripped — Stone was ready to pocket a big check for the non-profit devoted to fighting HIV/AIDS.
But the money didn’t flow as freely as the bottles of champagne that amfAR waiters poured over a five-hour dinner for a crowd of about 400 European high rollers, business titans and oligarchs.
“Do I have a bid for $200,000!” Stone said. “Let’s go.” After not a single hand went up immediately, Stone looked out into the crowd with exasperation. “What a bunch of cheap motherfuckers,” she said.
In the end, the 32 gowns curated by Carine Roitfeld sold for $265,000. In glitzier years, the fashion show has brought in more than $1 million from a generous donor.
The annual charity auction, now in its 27th year, marks the unofficial end of the Cannes Film Festival. It’s been known for drawing major movie stars and musical acts — from Leonardo DiCaprio to Mariah Carey — and big bucks, raising $235 million since its inception.
Yet the charity event has recently navigated scandal. In 2018, Kenneth Cole resigned as chairman, after allegations that he’d funneled $600,000 to Harvey Weinstein, a loud and boisterous backer of amfAR, from a 2015 dinner.
After cancelling last year due to Covid-19, amfAR Cannes returned with less glitz and fewer people. Instead of the Hotel du Cap, the dinner was held at Villa Eilenroc, with a layout of tables that restricted dancing or schmoozing as part of social distancing efforts. The crowd was about half of its normal size.
The bidding also wasn’t as fierce for the live auction that featured 24 items, including extravagant vacations (eight nights in Zanzibar for eight people went for $118,000), art pieces (a bronze astronaut sold for $472,000) and even the gold SUV driven by Sacha Baron Cohen in his 2012 movie “The Dictator” ($236,000).
In keeping with the night’s “The Great Gatsby” theme, Stone auctioned off a first-edition copy of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald signed by the two actors who played Gatsby at the movies — Robert Redford and DiCaprio (neither were in attendance). The package came with more extravaganza perks: the cufflinks the men wore in their movies; and a lunch with Stone at the villa where the gala was held.
It all went for $200,000.
At around 1:30 a.m., Alicia Keys performed a set of four songs, including “Empire State of Mind,” in what she described as her first post-COVID concert.
Presenters included Regina King, Mj Rodriguez, Rachel Brosnahan and Lucas Bravo, the French model and heartthrob from “Emily in Paris.” Spike Lee, who was billed as a “featured guest,” made such a brief appearance, most of the attendees never saw him.
Orlando Bloom sat next to Stone but didn’t take the stage. Stone returned to the event as host after an absence of seven years.
At the top of the evening, the actor made a toast to all the donors in the crowd, as she spoke about how far the efforts to end HIV and AIDS have come.
“We have been together for so long,” Stone said. “For so many years we didn’t know what was going to happen. And now we have commercial for AIDS medication on television, because of you. We can stop mother to child transmission, because of you.”
Through multiple costume changes, Stone did her best to wrangle money from the crowd. At around 2:30 a.m., she emerged in a robe to sell a limited collection of watches designed by Chopard in the likeness of Gatsby and Daisy for $100,000 apiece.
But after she was only able to get the asking price for a pair of watches, when she had an inventory of 42, she left the podium annoyed. “Thank you for coming,” she said tersely. “Adios.”