(MOUGINS, France) — Jerry Hall, draped in a Vivienne Westwood gown and Chopard diamonds, held up Mick Jagger's fire-engine-red Fender guitar. The opening bid at the 10th annual Cinema Against AIDS benefit black-tie dinner and auction for the American Foundation for AIDS Research Thursday night was $35,000. "It could be more," Hall said of the bid for the guitar that had sat in her living room and had also been played by Pete Townshend, among others. By the close of bidding, it was: The piece of rock and roll memorabilia went for $52,000.
Obviously, those present took Elizabeth Taylor's exhortation to heart when she said, "We need you. And your cash. It's just money — and if not to make the world a little better, then what is it for?"
Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, the driving force behind the benefit, raised $2 million for the night, a sum that included his own $100,000 donation and another $162,000 garnered from the 500 tickets he made available to Mel Brooks' Broadway hit The Producers. Taylor herself donated a ball gown that sold for $10,000 and offered $100,000 for Shirley Bassey to belt out "Goldfinger."
The event, always held during the Cannes Film Festival, returned to the famous Moulin des Mougins restaurant after coupling last year with the Victoria's Secret fashion show. Celebrity auctioneers included Tim Robbins, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Evans, and Sela Ward, while Naomi Campbell, Patricia Arquette, ER's Goran Visnjic, Stephen Baldwin, and David Lynch were among the moneyed crowd.
The night's most notable transactions were the $40,000 paid for a three-karat yellow diamond; lunch with Mikhail Gorbachev, which took a capitalistic $28,000; and a $12,000 breakfast with Elizabeth Hurley. "She's very single and very lonely and she insisted I be her chaperone," said high bidder Weinstein. The $10,000 paid out for one of Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich outfits seemed like a steal, considering it came with a date to accompany Roberts to the premiere of America's Sweethearts.
Still, not every offer got a winning bid. Naomi Campbell's willingness to do the Brazilian samba for $1 million found no takers. Nor did the chance to see the rotund Weinstein dance in nothing but a thong for $2 million.
Taylor, who brought hairdresser Jose Eber to France with her, looked like a queen and was much more focused than she was at the Golden Globes. "It is sad and sobering," she said, "for this year marks the anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus, 20 years. I worry for the children."