Gere, Stone Auction Peeps and Purses

VENICE, ITALY — Sharon Stone played another starring role at the Venice Film Festival Thursday night. The celebrity activist showed up for the $1,000-per-plate Cinema Against AIDS Venice charity bash looking chic in a custom-made see-through "mermaid" gown.

Stone kicked things off by announcing that the American Foundation for AIDS Research's first auction featured one bidder buying the opportunity to peek at Naomi Campbell's navel ring. "We'll sell anything in the fight against AIDS," she quipped.

The actress hoped to see her personal, movie star-style Louis Vuitton vanity case be the evening's main attraction. She had spent four years working with the Parisian luggage designers to create the line; though two of her cases will be on sale in September (ranging in price from $700 to $9,600), this largest piece was one of only three in the entire world. Stone has the prototype, while the Vuitton Museum outside Paris has another. The third went on sale — for a disappointing $16,000.

Other items fared better. Actress Laura Linney, here to promote Sundance Film Festival winner You Can Count on Me, paid $4,000 for a triptych. Artist-director Julian Schnabel, whose new picture, Before Night Falls, featuring Johnny Depp, played at the Venice festival, paid $13,000 for a painting. Schnabel then spontaneously offered to donate a portrait he would make of the highest bidder. A jubilant Stone began the bidding at $150,000. When there were no takers, she announced, "I'll buy it myself!" When she did, the room filled with wild applause.

Runaway Gere Richard Gere, who starred with Stone in the 1994 thriller Intersection, arrived early to help her with the AMFAR auction. The actor was in the ancient city to promote the world premiere of Robert Altman's Dr. T and the Women, in which he assumes the role of a gynecologist suffering a midlife crisis.

It was the first time Gere and wife Carey Lowell had been separated from their 7-month-old baby. "You'd think that [being away] would make it easier to get a night's sleep," he said. Not true. "We keep waking up all the time worrying."

Thursday was also Gere's birthday, and for his environmental work, he was given a spectacular golden-winged Murano lion made of glass. Gere donated the gift to the auction, where it sold for $11,000.

Hopper's Wild Ride Adventuresome actor Dennis Hopper, a friend of Schnabel's and an art collector, also turned up in Venice en route to Greece. "My daughter is the fashion editor of Elle [magazine], and she called me and said, 'Dad, I'm married,'" he related. "She eloped with a Greek, so we're going to Greece to meet the in-laws. Then we're going to St. Petersburg [Russia], where BMW is sponsoring a 300-mile motorcycle race to a medieval village."

Guess that proves that you can add decades to this Easy Rider, but you'll never take him off his bike. — Stephen Schaefer

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