This story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Actors, producers, directors — you expect to run into those types at the Cannes Film Festival. But who’s the Chinese guy spraying champagne all over the beach? Or that Saudi dude on that yacht chock-full of fashion models? Cannes always is loaded with characters, especially these last two weeks of May, when a movable circus of oil tycoons, obscure royals and pampered socialites are drawn to the white-hot lights of the Croisette like moths — if moths drove Ferraris — to a flame. Below, THR identifies the six main types of partyboys (and girls) to be found this time of year, year after year, on the French Riviera.
24-Hour Fete People
They own mansions in multiple cities, fly in private jets and prefer to entertain and be entertained on a global scale. These are the nomadic super-wealthy who look at the Cannes Film Festival as just one more stop on their perpetual world-party tour. “The people we see in Cannes,” says one regular festival attendee, “it’s the same crowd we see in St. Barts, Sardinia, Ibiza, Miami, New York, Gstaad and Courchevel.” Some super-rich come to Cannes and at least pretend to do movie business, like the Saudi prince who invited a producer aboard his yacht under the pretense of investing in the producer’s film slate, then decided he’d rather lift anchor and sail off to party in St. Tropez. “The engines started revving, and girls were appearing from every corner of the boat,” recalls the producer, who didn’t go to St. Tropez (“I had a meeting with the Japanese”). A few jet-setters, like socialite Denise Rich, ex-wife of pardoned billionaire trader Marc Rich, have become institutions on the Riviera (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were overnight guests on her yacht a couple of years ago). But lots of folks entertaining on barges in the harbor are just passing through (they’re usually the ones blasting club music at full volume). These Cannes wannabes are easy to spot on the beaches, as well. A few years ago, a luxury concierge and “lifestyle management” service called Quintessentially (its motto: “Anything, anywhere, anytime”) helped a super-rich Chinese client host a Cannes beach party. He paid for 2,500 bottles of bubbly to be distributed to his guests so that he could break into the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest champagne spray in history (tragically, Guinness has yet to recognize the achievement).
The Young and Loaded
Think spring breakers, but with their father’s AmEx Black card, plus fat-walleted finance guys who jet down from London and Zurich. They tend to spend their Cannes nights on the far end of the Croisette, in places like the VIP Room, Baoli or mega-club Gotha, where bottle service for a methuselah (six liters) of Dom Perignon Rosé costs upward of $200,000. “Rich kids from all over come in and spend thousands and thousands,” says one Cannes observer. “These are people who have a lot of money and who will spend a fortune to hang with celebrities.”
The Bling Ringers
Yes, there are some bargains to be found, if you’re rich enough. Some lucky folks even manage to finagle a complimentary trip to the festival. Every year, luxury brands like the jewelry company Chopard, one of the festival’s official sponsors, fly their biggest-spending clients to Cannes, whisk them in all-access cars to premieres, dinners and afterparties, and treat them to lymphatic drainage massages and other perks worth tens of thousands of dollars. Just a small token of appreciation for the hundreds of thousands the clients spend on brilliant-cut diamond necklaces.
Where movie stars go, designers and supermodels follow. The most fash-packed event of the festival is amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS fundraiser (tables go for as much as $150,000), which last year, like every year, drew a slew of former and current Victoria’s Secret models — Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova and Alessandra Ambrosio. Among the highlights: the charity auction, where bidders can win prizes like round-the-world tickets from British Airways (a Middle Eastern bidder won that gem a few years ago, admitting that it would be her first time flying commercial). Italian designer Roberto Cavalli shows up regularly during the festival and hosts parties on his iridescent purple yacht, even though he told Elle in 2011 that he hadn’t seen a film in Cannes since 2007 (Sharon Stone was one of his overnight guests last year). But the wildest fashionista night at the festival these days is Italian jewelry designer Fawaz Gruosi‘s De Grisogono blowout at the Hotel du Cap’s Eden-Roc, which last year drew both fashion folk (ex-Wonderbra model Adriana Karembeu) and movie people (Harvey Weinstein, Leonardo DiCaprio).
Formula One Early Birds
The Monaco Grand Prix takes place just as Cannes is wrapping up, on May 25, so many racing execs, drivers and wealthy fans make the festival a pit stop before helicoptering to Monte Carlo. Petra and Tamara Ecclestone, daughters of F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, have been making the rounds at Cannes parties in recent years, driving the British tabs wild with their unique fashion choices (like neon and animal-print trousers) and freewheeling spending (Tamara blew $800,000 on a Warhol print of Elizabeth Taylor at last year’s amfAR auction).
Russian Billionaires Who Want to Be Shot Into Space With Leonardo DiCaprio
There are so many Russians on the Riviera in May, you’d think the festival was being held in eastern Ukraine. Billionaire Roman Abramovich, who owns the English soccer team Chelsea F.C., has an enormous mansion near the Hotel du Cap; his girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova, makes frequent rounds at festival parties. Len Blavatnik, who owns Warner Music and other media companies, hosts an annual Cannes lunch on his yacht, the Odessa. Not surprisingly, these guys aren’t shy about spreading their cash around. Before throwing a yacht party, one oligarch leased a submarine to check under his boat for bombs. Another dropped $1.5 million at an amfAR charity auction to win a space flight on a Virgin Galactic with DiCaprio. No liftoff date has yet been set.
5 Warning Signs that Cannes Riffraff Is in Your Presence
1. If you see people naked and pouring champagne all over their bodies. Especially on Nikki Beach.
2. If you spy a heavyset man surrounded by a gaggle of young women and said young women are scantily clad. Chances are, someone in the room is a prostitute (and it’s not the heavyset man).
— COROLLARY A —
If there is a lot of hair that’s waist-length or longer.
— COROLLARY B —
If you spot a lot of women wearing bathing suits and heels.
— COROLLARY C —
If women are wearing (fake) diamonds larger than grapes.
3. If they’re serving a vodka brand that nobody has ever heard of. A product launch party might have been touted as “hot,” but if you don’t know it, neither does anybody else you might want to hang out with.
4. If you’re traveling an hour outside of Cannes, consider abandoning your plans because if the destination is a dud, you are stuck, especially if it’s raining.
5. If you don’t understand any language anyone is speaking or recognize the currency — or the drugs — everyone is using.