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Star-studded AIDS gala raises record 10M euros

CAP D'ANTIBES, FRANCE (AP) - Vertiginous fuchsia heels bedazzled with 360 carats'-worth of precious stones, a tennis match with Monaco's Prince Albert and the rubberized second-skin dress right off Gwen Stefani's back were among the extravagant lots that helped a star-studded charity auction raise a record-breaking euro10 million ($14 million) for AIDS research.

A-listers turned up by the herd, with Sean Penn, Karl Lagerfeld, Janet Jackson, Freida Pinto and Patrick Dempsey in attendance Thursday's amfAR charity dinner-cum-auction, held at the exclusive seaside Hotel du Cap. Robert De Niro, who heads the jury at the Cannes Film Festival _ which runs through Sunday in the next town over _ and jury members Jude Law and Uma Thurman also attended.

Stars in their evening finest and those fabulous enough to call them their friends _ and spring for a seat at the several-thousand-dollar-a-plate gala _ mingled over cocktails before the start of the three-course dinner that stretched out over four long hours.

In past years, Sharon Stone has emceed the evening's festivities, but she was absent Thursday, so dozens of heavy-hitters took turns cajoling the well-heeled audience to splurge on artwork, trips, fine wine and a pair of stiletto heels billed as the world's "most precious shoes."

Proceeds from the event go to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), a nonprofit organization that supports HIV/AIDS research.

Draped with 500 diamonds, sapphires, and other stones, the heels were a one-of-a-kind collaboration between Italian shoemaker Giuseppe Zanotti and French luxury jeweler Chopard.

"I'm wearing them, and my bodyguard is my shadow," said Polish-born model Anja Rubik, who paired sparking stilettos with a strapless Pucci dress in blue feathers.

Asked whether she was happy with the euro140,000 the shoes _ and a pair of matching earrings _ ended up fetching, she demurred. "I was hoping for more. I'm very ambitious."

The evening's highest-fetching lot was chance to play a match of tennis with His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco and take a dip with his fiancee, South African-born Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock. The tete-a-tete was sold to two different bidders for euro500,000 apiece.

Wittstock placed the winning euro60,000 bid on Moet & Chandon's Nebuchadnezzar Champagne, in a gold-leafed bottle.

A ten-day-long trip for eight aboard a private jet fetched euro180,000, and a week in an exclusive chalet in the chic French ski station of Courcheval was sold twice for euro250,000 a piece.

A Herb Ritz photo of Elizabeth Taylor fetched euro150,000, a print by Robert Rauschenberg, euro130,000, and Jean Pigozzi's 1981 photograph of Mick Jagger went for euro300,000.

Between the bids, Courtney Love, Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto and Boy George played sets, in a failed bid to get the audience pumping.

Perhaps the tepid reaction was the result of a food coma _ the menu included olive oil roasted sea bass with bearnaise sauce, a medley of spring vegetables and a berry-topped meringue _ but whatever the reason, it proved too much for Boy George.

"You are the worst," he chided after a bid to get the audience to sing along to "Karma Chameleon" netted radio silence. When it happened again, he came out swinging, ranting, "so you're not going to sing along? You're too rich and fabulous to be bothered? Unbelievable!"

The 18th edition of the amfAR dinner was dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Taylor, an early crusader in the fight against AIDS who helped establish amfAR.

Elton John hailed Taylor as a "force of nature" and pledged she would remain the charity event's "guiding star."

Ivana Trump, wearing a sequined long-sleeve gown by Paris house Azzaro, said Taylor, who died in March, continued to loom large over the event.

"She was not just a legend of the silver screen but she also had a big heart and she will be missed," said Trump, her blond locks swept into a towering beehive.

Last year, the event brought in $6.7 million.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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