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The scene: Private reception for artist Peter...

The scene: Private reception for artist Peter Max’s Wednesday night opening at Hanson Art Gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The ‘60s pop art icon’s popularity hasn’t waned; the gallery was packed early on, creating a fire marshal’s nightmare. Having conquered graphics, animation and clothes (two years ago he painted boots and charged $10,000 for them), Max, 51, is concentrating on gallery showings of his five-figure paintings and drawings.

The buzz: Max appeared with Swami Satchidananda, who blessed a painting and got a jaded Beverly Hills crowd catting up a storm. “A swami? Yeah, I never leave home without one,” one man snipped. “That guy is some camera hog!” another gasped as TV lights relentlessly followed the man in the peach robes. Since bodyguards are so common, could a swami be the new must-have entourage element?

Who was there: Billy Dee Williams, Lois Chiles, Lorna Luft, Alley Mills, Judd Nelson, Arte Johnson, Jack Carter, Darryl Bell, Timothy and Barbara Leary, Joe Cortese, Patti D’Arbanville; singer Luther Vandross; author and ex-groupie Pamela des Barres; producers Sid and Marty Krofft.

Retro shmetro: It was something of a ‘60s reunion, what with Timothy Leary, “Laugh-In’s” Arte Johnson and Max bringing the swami (remember when the Beatles traveled with their guru?). Some guests tried to scare up ‘60s relics, including peace sign earrings and lime green minis. But hey--it’s not the ‘60s, OK? Not when pot-bellied studio execs discuss their latest projects and worry about the cholesterol in the dimsum.

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Dress mode: The post-work bash brought out men in suits (except for the occasional turtleneck and corduroy jacket) and toupees; women donned cocktail dresses and large, arty earrings.

The food: Chow was minimal: dim sum, shrimp and pate. But since the gallery was wall-to-wall bodies anyway, this probably was a good thing. Who wants to dig old hors d’oeuvres out of the carpet?

Quoted: “Peter and I have known each other for 18 years,” Arte Johnson said. “He designed a set for a TV special I did. We’re like kissing cousins. When we see each other we grab one another and say, ‘My God--what has happened in our lives?’ The only thing is,” he said, glancing around, “I can’t see any of the paintings because of this crowd. Why don’t you have everyone lie down so you can see the art?”

Overheard: “Is that a self-portrait?” one man wondered, studying Max’s “Andy With Mustache,” a tribute to late artist Andy Warhol.

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Triumphs: Peter Max, 20 years later, still can pull a crowd.

Glitches: An overeager gallery employee was trying to sell a Max painting in the thick of the noisy crowd. “These people will all be cleared out by 9, 9:30,” she assured the buyer, within earshot of guests who had thought they could stay awhile.

Ironies of life: The press material indicated that Max has spent his time and energy recently helping environmental and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace and SOS Animals. How fitting that so many women showed up in fur coats.


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