He confessed that he was horribly sad, having lost a good friend in New York recently to AIDS.
But artist David Hockney, famous for portrayals of the California good life, proved that he has what it takes to be a celebrity on Saturday at the opening of his exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art: He knows how to fake it.
He disguised his somber mood with a rainbow ensemble--cobalt-blue shirt, emerald-green belt and mustard-yellow tie.
He brought along his sidekick, Stanley, a devil-may-care dachshund (who kept Hockney and a few hundred guests smiling by spending most of the evening on his haunches, barking for the treats Hockney had stashed in his pockets).
And he mingled, rubbed elbows, shook hands, explained his art, explained his art again, posed for pictures, chatted, chortled, sipped, supped, endured.
"Hockney is a celebrity," said his good friend, Don Cribb of Santa Ana. "He could be compared to Andy Warhol in the sense that in America, artists rarely achieve his kind of celebrity. I mean, do you know what Roy Lichtenstein or Jasper Johns looks like? I doubt it.
"David translates into the media easily with that shock of blond hair and that kindness. People love him."
Indeed. Ann Abbott, who founded the Santa Ana museum two years ago with her husband, Robert, called Hockney "wonderful, so friendly. The most popular contemporary artist today."
"There's a good amount of energy that surrounds Hockney," said Robert Abbott, admiration for the English artist gleaming in his eyes. "I love his artistic freeness. It's fun. People relate to him."
"Everything on display here is virtually printed," Hockney noted, as Stanley sat, paws-up, at his side. "The photographs are printed. The drawings are meant to be printed or go into a fax machine."
The collection, at the museum through Nov. 5, is Hockney's own, a fascinating and colorful cache he keeps in his Los Angeles studio. "I have no room for it at home," he said. "I live in a tiny little beach house in Malibu."
His advice to Hockney wannabe's? "Just pursue what you want to do," he said. "That's what I did."
Faces in the crowd: Renee Segerstrom (a pin by Paloma Picasso glimmering in her hair) and Henry Segerstrom, who staged a private dinner for Hockney and about 50 guests at Gustaf Anders restaurant in Santa Ana after the museum bash; art collectors Sandy and Harold Price; Dr. Walter Henry and watercolor artist Maria Carmen del Calvo; Olga Nizhegorodova (a visitor from Leningrad who said of Hockney's work, "Incredible. There is just nothing to compare!"); Charlene and developer Roger Torriero (a former architect who said he especially likes Hockney's black-and-white pieces: "I love the use of two exact opposites to form a composition"); John Parducci (the vintner who is underwriting the exhibit and who arranged for 24 cases of 1988 Parducci Chardonnay to be poured at the party); Anton Segerstrom, escorting his grandmother, Ruth Segerstrom, and Sally Sheridan, founder of the Irvine Fine Arts Center (who piped: "I love this museum. It's user friendly, unlike some museums that are run by people who are sure no one is intelligent enough to understand"), and her husband, Don.
Junior Woman of the Year: Food, fun and fall fashions will be presented by Robinson's and Vogue magazine at South Coast Plaza Crystal Court on Sept. 14, when the name of the Orange County Junior Woman of the Year will be announced.
Staged to benefit the Assistance League of Newport Beach's Junior Auxiliary, the festivities will include a cocktail buffet catered by Rococo and a fashion show featuring clothing by labels such as Giorgio Armani, Anne Klein and Donna Karan New York.
Up for the prestigious Woman of the Year nod are Marcia Adler, American Red Cross; Ginny Cortesy, St. Joseph Hospital; Toni Rios, Bright Light Center of Personal Evolution; Lydia Tyler, Junior League of Orange County; June Veimes, High Hopes Head Injury Program, and De Vera Heard, Lisa Hinshaw, Mary Ellen Mahan and Diana Sundell of the Girl Scout Council of Orange County.
After the fashion show, guests will enjoy coffee and dessert. Tickets are $25 each. For information, call (714) 432-1800.