If Cannes was in lock-down for yesterday's Inglourious Basterds evening red carpet screening attended by Brangelina and other glitterati, the stakes were significantly upped for tonight's charity AMFAR gala auction and dinner attended by former US president Bill Clinton.
Sharon Stone presided in her traditional role as co-chair and auctioneer, alongside fellow actresses Sophie Marceau and Michelle Yeoh, and industry mogul Harvey Weinstein to raise money for the American Foundation for Aids Research which at last year's event raised US $10 million, the highest sum of any single AMFAR event.
The traditional annual event used to be held at Moules de Mougins, an acclaimed restaurant 40 minutes outside Cannes, but the extraordinary security required for Clinton's visit pre-empted the move to the very exclusive and more isolated Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc restaurant, traditionally the home of mega-stars during the festival, due to its isolation, privacy and tight security.
A fleet of 500 limousines took the 800- 900 guests, the most elite paying Euros 10,000 to dine with Clinton, others at more distant tables a lesser price.
The event was inaugurated by Elizabeth Taylor, who in recent years for health reasons handed over hosting duties to Sharon Stone, a brilliant auctioneer and Cannes public favourite.
Amidst the festival hype and hoopla, this philanthropic event is its most classy with leaders from the worlds of fashion, music, business, European royalty and politics flying in purely for the traditional dinner and charity auction. In fact, since 1985, AMFAR has invested nearly US $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
The top bid at last year's auction was Madonna's Chanel diamond-encrusted bag which exceeded the previous year's top bid, a kiss from George Clooney which fetched US $300,000.
This year's auction highlight was the signed saxophone donated by Clinton which allegedly sold for Euros 130,000. Could it be affected by the economic downturn? A kiss from Vampire star Robert Pattinson was among the leading bids along with tennis lessons from Monica Seles and glamour girl Jelena Jankovic.
Cocktails began at 6.30pm followed by a 9.30 pm dinner and auction with performance by Annie Lennox.
Donatella Versace oversaw the evening's décor, which featured an exhibition by photographer Bruce Weber.