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VENICE — La Serenissima was a lot less serene than usual during the 59th annual Venice Film Festival. All week the taxi boats worked double-time as stars and industry heavyweights ferried between premieres on the Lido, parties in Venice and suites at the Cipriani Hotel. The official kickoff dinner following the screening of “Frida” started off well enough but fell flat when the Miramax guests of honor decided to ditch.

“This hotel food sucks,” Harvey Weinstein reportedly said, “let’s go to Harry’s Bar.” The Miramax chieftain left his table and proceeded through the dining room to gather up his posse for dinner at the famous boite. He left Giorgio Armani, Sophia Loren and a couple hundred other guests behind. Julie Taymor, “Frida”’s director, however, was apparently uncomfortable with having to leave the official party to join Harvey’s cool kids clique.

This story first appeared in the September 6, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It was like not having dinner with the girl you invited to the prom,” said a member of her entourage the next night when Weinstein hosted another dinner — this one also catered by Cipriani, albeit at the Monaco Hotel next door — for “Frida” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Full Frontal,” also screening at the festival. Naomi Campbell and Gwyneth Paltrow joined the Miramax family for more risotto and seafood salad, as well as the requisite toasts.

“It takes two stones to make a fire and it hurts to give birth,” began Taymor, whose endless stormy clashes with Weinstein during filming were well known, “but where would we be if we didn’t?”

“Now I’ll tell you the truth,” responded Weinstein, when it was his turn to toast. “Salma busted my balls everyday…”

“Impossible!” shouted Hayek from another table.

“…and Julie drove me crazy every day,” he continued.

But all hard feelings were put to rest, because after dinner, cast and crew stayed until 4:00 a.m. after Taymor and Hayek kicked off the wild partying with a fiercely hot tango.

On Wednesday, Milla Jovovich took center-stage, glittering in a bushel of Bulgari diamonds, when she hosted the annual AmFAR gala at the stunning Teatro delle Tese Cinquecentesche, a renovated factory framed by rows of brick and marble porticos that rise from water.

“If any man doesn’t pay $12,000 to have Sophie Dahl come and bare her chest to you than you’re crazy,” she proclaimed during the live auction, screaming and wiggling her hips as bids for the Bulgari necklace modeled by Dahl climbed higher and higher. While most of the 300 guests found Jovovich charming, one older Venetian signora found her just too loud. “They should send her home,” she whispered to a friend.

In the end, Angela Missoni made the winning offer of $16,000 for the necklace. The designer was in a giving mood, bidding with her daughter Margherita on items during the silent auction earlier in the evening.

“Whatever they want, they can get,” said Missoni patriarch Ottavio. “I’ll sign the check.”

While the Film Festival may have brought the stars to the Lido, the movie people weren’t the only show in town. The social set was also out in force, squeezing the last vacation days out of summer. Dodie Rosecrans, patroness of Venetian Heritage, couture client extraordinaire and one of the last of the big-time spenders, hosted dinners and lunches in her extraordinary Palazzo Brandolini digs including, on Sunday, a small gathering to view the Regatta Storica — the traditional boat race up the Grand Canal — where guests included Xavier Guerrand-Hermes from France. The following night, Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo ducked into Arturo’s — a Venetian hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves delicious meat and pasta (no fish) to regulars like Joel Rosenthal of JAR — to sample the seasonal spaghetti with porcini mushrooms. Over at the Cipriani hotel, Nan Kempner arrived for her annual sojourn from New York, as did Florence van der Kemp from Paris. Meanwhile, Valentino made all the rounds from his yacht, the TM Blue One, moored in the lagoon, where Gwyneth Paltrow and Georgina Brandolini were onboard guests and where Tom Hanks dropped in for an intimate lunch honoring his movie, Sam Mendes’ “Road to Perdition.” The largest yacht afloat, though, was the Virginian. At twice the size of the TM Blue One, it belongs to Lord and Lady Bamford — whose dinner guests whispered that the most memorable thing about their meal onboard was the dreary food.

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