Harvey Weinstein accusations to cast shadow over Cannes amfAR benefit

Harvey Weinstein accusations to cast shadow over Cannes amfAR benefit

The amfAR benefit at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc — the traditional high point of the Cannes Film Festival — will be held Thursday under the dark shadow of Harvey Weinstein.

Original invitations for the black-tie benefit for AIDS research listed Sharon Stone and Pharrell Williams, but both dropped out. Sting and Shaggy are set to perform.

In past years, Weinstein was the maestro, dragooning stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman to attend, and even bid on auction items.

Following the accusations of rape against Weinstein, the event and its organization have been tarnished by the controversy that led designer Kenneth Cole to resign as amfAR chairman in February after more than 30 years with the foundation. Cole allegedly allowed Weinstein to funnel $600,000 in donations from the 2015 Cannes event to a Boston-based theater that workshopped the producer’s Broadway-bound musical “Finding Neverland.”

Deadline Hollywood reported May 7 that the Manhattan DA’s office was issuing subpoenas seeking documents related to the deal as part of its Weinstein investigation.

Cole has said that the deal “was determined to be legal and ethical and was engaged in because it served amfAR’s mission,” and that any suggestion that he made the deal as a favor to Weinstein “is ridiculous and patently false.”

The day Cole and four other board members resigned, amfAR imposed term limits and “a series of reforms that will enable the foundation to continue to operate at the highest standards of governance.”

“I wonder how the hell amfAR CEO Kevin Frost is keeping his $650,000 job,” Jeff Berk, of Privé Porter, the top trader of Hermès bags, told me.

Berk writes in “Moneybags,” due in September, how he offered to donate a violet crocodile Birkin bag with white-gold and diamond hardware that he hoped would break the Birkin-auction record of $302,000.

According to Berk, all he wanted was four seats to the gala in return, but amfAR wouldn’t give him more than two, so he declined.

Berk said that the Cannes event is “in free fall.” According to amfAR’s press releases, the gala grossed $35 million in 2014, and as of last year had raised about $5 million less every year since.

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