Hockney Reviews His ABCs

The Scene: Monday’s reception at Trumps for “Hockney’s Alphabet,” a new art book of ABCs for adults. The Random House volume was illustrated by David Hockney and edited by Stephen Spender; 26 writers composed works on a letter of the alphabet.

The Book: Some of the contributions were particularly fitting. Seamus Heaney composed a poem for the Gaelic letter G. Erica Jong had a lot to say on the subject of I. And Gore Vidal began his contribution with a complaint: “I never liked the look of E .”

The Good Cause: Net proceeds from the $35 book go to the American Friends of AIDS Crisis Trust. Salespeople from Book Soup were kept busy taking in cash and ringing up credit card sales.

Who Was There: Director Franco Zeffirelli, actors Harry Dean Stanton and Roddy McDowall, restaurateur Mario Tamayo, deejay Casey Kasem, the Music Center’s Gordon Davidson, and social chronicler Joan Quinn with her ever-present camera.


Uh-Oh: Trouble brewed when Hockney got his first look at the book, which differs in design from the British edition. The artist insisted that he’d never seen the American version. “What do I do?” wailed the usually placid Hockney. “The English edition is beautiful. It’s definitely an art book. This is not. These designers are terrible. I don’t even want to put my name on it.” After being cajoled and reminded that the book’s sales benefit AIDS programs, Hockney gave in and continued to sign, but he grumbled about his displeasure to anyone within earshot.

Quoted: “Look at this,” said Roddy McDowall, showing off the British edition, which he had brought along to the party. “It’s elegant.” Most guests agreed. Gordon Davidson showed his copy of the American edition, which Hockney had just inscribed: “I drew the letters only. Love, David.”

A Happy Ending: Random House representatives in New York said Tuesday that the book had been approved by the charity and by Hockney’s agent in England. They were upset that it had never been shown to the artist. The first U.S. printing of 15,000 has already sold out. Subsequent printings will meet the British specifications Hockney prefers.

When Parties Collide: The magazine The Advocate was having its own reception in an adjoining room, and many of the guests drifted from party to party. Sampling the food at Hockney’s reception, Advocate editor Richard Rouilard said: “I’m staying in here, where the food is better. All we’re serving is water and deviled eggs.”


Elizabeth Taylor Watch: The star and AIDS activist was unable to attend because of illness, but she wrote a bit of doggerel for the occasion and sent it along with AIDS activist Joel Rothschild. The poem began, “ F is for the flu I have . . . “