CAP D'ANTIBES, France (AP) — With an apt rendition of "Goldfinger," singing legend Shirley Bassey roused celebrity revelers to dig deep into their pockets at the 20th amfAR gala in the Cap D'Antibes, helping to raise an estimated $25 million for AIDS research.
The British-born singer was one of several performers including Duran Duran who sang at the gold-themed auction event near the Cannes Film Festival, hosted by actress Sharon Stone.
The annual gala has for two decades attracted the film and fashion industries' rich and powerful. This year was no exception, with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Chastain, Janet Jackson, Milla Jovovich and Goldie Hawn sitting side by side.
Items auctioned included an Andy Warhol lithograph of Elizabeth Taylor, a chance to have a family portrait taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz, a week in fashion designer's Donna Karan's Caribbean hideaway and a shimmering 53-carat diamond necklace.
amfAR says AIDS still affects some 34 million people worldwide.
"Yes, you can think it's a silly little dinner, you can deride it as full of celebrities dressed up," said Leibovitz. "But that's missing the point. 80 million dollars amfAR has raised since it began. That's the point. It has saved lives."
Weinstein took the mike several times to praise the film industry's commitment to AIDS, stressing that while two decades ago the illness was a "looming plague," a cure might well be seen within "our lifetime."
For the second time in amfAR's history, the event's penchant for excess translated rather well into a glimmering catwalk show, curated by stylist Carine Roitfeld. It featured some 38 gold and black looks from designers such as Dior, Chanel, Lanvin and Prada worn by models such as Karlie Kloss, Karolina Kurkova, Angela Lindvall and Alessandra Ambrosio.
The standout dresses were a custom gold embroidered long-sleeved gown courtesy of Valentino, and a custom gold pleated minidress from Givenchy. All the dresses went to a single bidder, selling in just a couple of minutes for $1.56 million.
Though celebrities were in a generous mood, news that thieves outsmarted 80 security guards and made off with a necklace that creators say is worth 2 million euros ($2.6 million) — the second such jewelry heist during this year's Cannes — had celebrities clinging more closely to their jewels.
"Well yeah, I'm going to be watching how much champagne I drink," said Jovovich, smiling. "Because you never know somebody might come up and just shwoop, take it off."
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP