Stone helps raise $3 mil at amfAR benefit


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- In one of her best performances, Sharon Stone alternately charmed and cajoled several hundred well-heeled guests to fork out upward of $3 million to benefit AIDS research via the first Dubai-based amfAR charity event.

"It's an extraordinary honor to see the greatness of your compassion," Stone said Monday night during the 90-minute auction, at which items ranging from a diamond-studded Dior watch to a Kennedy-era sports car to a Rauschenberg painting were bid up by the assembled guests.

"I've been moved to the core of my being to see the largesse of your hearts," Stone enthused, having at one point sailed down into the audience to up the ante for the watch, which sparkled on her black gloved arm.

The timepiece -- which she pitched with her trademark flippancy: "In case you ever give a crap what time it is ..." -- eventually went for a whopping $200,000. And at the same time, a losing bidder, referred to by Stone as "my friend Hussein," pledged on the spot $100,000 over the next five years to amfAR.

Other treasures on offer included a night out on the town with Stone in Hollywood, including dinner at Spago, which went for somewhat more than the typical price tag at the restaurant: a mouth-watering $110,000.

The 360 guests, who paid $2,000 a pop to attend the lavish dinner at Babs al Shams, about 40 miles into the desert, also were entertained by songbirds Dana Fuchs and Gloria Estefan and performance painter Brian Olsen. His impromptu painting of Marilyn Monroe went for $200,000 -- not bad for 10 minutes of work onstage.

Among the guests sipping champagne on the resort veranda overlooking stretches of endless sand were Mira Nair, Dubai fest jury president Paulo Coelho, Michelle Yeoh and fest chairman Abdulhamid Juma.

Stone has been involved with amfAR for the past 12 years. The annual event in Cannes this year raised $7 million, while in October in Rome, the take was $1.35 million.

Speaking for the festival, Juma said that Dubai is "a city concerned with those less fortunate than us" and argued that AIDS has to be addressed on a global scale.

"It is natural for us to support the work of amfAR," he told the guests.

Some guests suggested that hosting the event was "a positive first step" for the Emirates because the federation does not legally permit homosexuality.

The event ended with Estefan, Fuchs and Stone in an impromptu rendition of "Let It Be."