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Ballad of Narayama

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Raise cash, he'll dance in a thong

CANNES, France Harvey Weinstein promised to dance in a thong if the AmFAR charity auction, the annual gala benefit here, raised $2 million Thursday night. The rich and the famous, who wined and dined in a big tent with Dame Elizabeth Taylor, wisely stopped just short of that milestone.

The AmFAR dinner, which raises money for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, is a star-spangled fixture of the Cannes festival. The tone of this year's gala was set by chairman and auctioneer Weinstein, the Miramax chief, who said he'd start the ball rolling by pledging $100,000.

He also donated 500 tickets to "The Producers," the hottest show on Broadway, and they were hammered down for either $167,000 or $200,000; the tumult was so great, it was hard to be sure.

Other hot items on the auction block: breakfast with Elizabeth Hurley ($12,000); Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" just for you ($100,000, paid by Elizabeth Taylor); Mick Jagger's personal Fender Squier Stratocaster guitar (certified in person by Jerry Hall, $52,000), and a walk-on part for a child in "Spy Kids 2" ($26,000).

Buses and limos carted about 500 guests up to Mougins, the little hill town above Cannes, where chef Roger Verge, his white mustache bristling with excitement, welcomed them to his famous Moulin de Mougins inn. The guests mingled in the garden, where models dressed in white feathers posed as living statues inside glass boxes.

I wandered into a debate involving singer-songwriter Lisa Nunez, artist Maggie Wachsberger and producer Jacqueline DeLaurentiis, who voiced their strong suspicion that some of the models were transvestites. Later who should I meet but Freddie Galfas, whose agency booked the models. "Genuine," he said. "One hundred percent women. You can take it from me."

It was a little awe-inspiring standing in the garden with half a dozen stunningly beautiful women towering a foot above everyone else. The supermodel Adriana Karembeu was regal in white. Naomi Campbell was slinky in an outfit that prudently concealed her navel. (A few years ago, Weinstein and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi got into a bidding war for her navel ring, even though she insisted it was not for sale).

Tallest of the models was the elegant Michelle Norkett, from Des Plaines. She is a pal of famous artist Peter Beard, who insisted that I photograph him kissing her foot. People are not stuck up at AmFAR.

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