Letter From Cannes

The Scent of Jasmine & Egos

From left, U2's Larry Mullen Jr., Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton.
From left, U2's Larry Mullen Jr., Bono, the Edge and Adam Clayton. (By Andrew Medichini -- Associated Press)
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 21, 2007

ANTIBES, France -- Up, up, the long and winding road to the Hotel du Cap, the grand old dame squatting there on her rocky cliff, and with a flash of special-entry pass, a lone prole taxi (everyone else arrives by chauffeured Renault or speedboat) enters the heavily fortified and forested gardens (14 acres, all oceanfront) and dumps its precious cargo -- c'est moi!-- at the hotel's Eden Roc restaurant for the evening of drinks, dinner, drinks, dancing and drinks that is the annual Vanity Fair party at the Cannes Film Festival.

You've heard of the fabled Lost Generation of the Roaring Twenties, Hemingway and Fitzgerald? They nursed their hangovers here. Today, this place is the home resort for the Found Generation, and they have apparently found a boatload of money. Literally! Because just offshore, bobbing at anchor, are their mega-yachts. Ahoy! There's Barry Diller's three-masted super-schooner.

Out of the taxi and take a good long whiff: the jasmine-scented air mingling with the perfume of the Med lapping the grotto below. And something else? Yes, we detect the not so subtle smell of serious cash. The place just reeks of it. (As well it should; for generations, the Hotel du Cap had a famous policy of not accepting credit cards. Suitcases of francs. Or more likely, guests had their bankers wire the funds for their bills.)

Old-world charm? Before entering the Eden Roc, a valet helpfully helps us into our jacket, and then gives the shoulders a brisk dusting, and bienvenue. Inside, first up, stands the host, Vanity Fair editor and now (we learn) restaurateur Graydon Carter, who is an Eden Roc of a man himself, just substantial, and he is dressed in spanking white pants and periwinkle-blue double-breasted blazer, and you want to hug him. Carter smiles and greets us warmly with "I can't believe we're feeding you." He's just kidding, of course. Did we mention that his highly intelligent, accomplished wife, Anna, is looking especially lovely this evening? "Don't steal anything," Carter warns. And out onto the patio we go. To say hello to U2 x 4.

Bono is here with the band ( hellooo, Edge), supporting their new concert film, "U2 3D," shot in, umm, 3D (don the funny glasses), and we tell Mr. Hewson (real name) that we liked it (really, what else do you say?), but in the press screening the sound should have been much louder. "Oh, yeah!" says Bono, "it's got to be loud." He is seriously interested in the volume. He is wearing amber-tinted sunglasses and is, we are happy to report, about our size, which is not tall, and so there is hope. We chitchat for just a sec about debt relief and Africa . . . at Cannes. That's the kind of bloke Bono is. A saint.

Mogul Harvey Weinstein is working the patio, and we're talking about his new documentary from Michael Moore, called "Sicko," about the American health-care mess. "This is a really different movie for Michael, a completely different tone. It's really going to surprise people," he says, looking sparky, because as everyone says here, "Harvey needs a hit," and the Moore thing might do it -- maybe not box office-shattering "Fahrenheit 9/11" money, but for a film about Blue Cross? It could do some business.

The dinner -- legumes, risotto, truffles, lobster, macaroons -- is thick with Hollywood producers and their wives. We're sitting at the table with Irena and Mike Medavoy, who did David Fincher's "Zodiac," which is in competition at Cannes. Medavoy, we learn, collects old books. Just fascinating. His wife is very into feng shui and is telling us that we simply must have in all our homes either real koi (goldfish apparently do not count) or a painting of koi, and we are all promising to immediately get on eBay and get some harmony.

Also dining: Microsoft founder Paul Allen (worth $16 billion, says Forbes) and Diller (sadly, only $1.3 billion). Diller is all flamboyance in white drawstring pants (he pulls the look off), while Allen is dressed in a suit you might wear answering a subpoena before Congress. Later in the evening, during the party-party, Diller is sprawling on a couch and telling us his sailboat can do 22 knots. In his dreams."So you ought to head over to the America's Cup in Spain and race Larry." That would be Larry Ellison (founder, Oracle, $13.7 billion), who is competing in the regatta. Diller gives us the kind of look he might give the cabin boy before he gets the lash. So, no invite out to the yacht.

At the party, a few hundred guests have arrived, some of the leggy ones dressed in micro-minis that give new meaning to the first two syllables. Collectively, the cost of the guests' shoes could feed Haiti for a day. A word about this: The annual Vanity Fair Oscar party in Los Angeles is now an institution filled to the rafters with Hollywood celebrities, our celebrities, the ones in our tabloids. This Cannes VF gig is different. Here it's London socialite Jemima Khan, the ex-wife of Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, daughter of Lady Annabel Goldsmith. She's hot. She's smart. She's rich. She's huge. But we are going to confess this as an innocent abroad: We kinda had to Google her.

So there's Jemima, and this suave handsome man in a dinner jacket, and we're thinking: a villain in a James Bond flick? (The DJ did spin the theme from "Goldfinger.") Hmm. An actor from one of those Merchant-Ivory movies? No! It's French giant brain/public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy. Oh, there is also some guy listed on the guest sheet simply as "Pavlos of Greece." Had to go to the Internet for that one, too. He's the crown prince of the defunct throne of Greece, as opposed to, like, hair stylist Frederic Fekkai of Rodeo Drive, who's here, too.

Our celebrities? Representing Team USA: it's Kid Rock and Jessica Simpson (not together). A couple of guys snag Simpson and get their pictures taken with her. We wonder, what makes them think they can do that? They don't treat Jemima Khan like that, and she's Hugh Grant's ex-girlfriend (thanks, Google!).

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