There was an art show opening last night. Pretty pictures, painted by Mary Page Evans, the wife of Rep. Thomas Evans (R.Del.). Lots of pretty people, too. Like National Security Adviser Richard Allen, presidential assistant Lyn Nofziger, Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis, CIA Director William Casey, Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), former attorney general John Mitchell, Rep. Henry Reuss (D-Wis.), painter Jamie Wyeth and about 700 more. Quite a showing for early Tuesday evening at the Hull Gallery, tucked away in a shopping mall in Northwest Washington.

But wait, there's more.

Paula Parkinson, the tattle-tale lobbyist who claims to have had an affair with Rep. Evans earlier this year, showed up, too. She didn't have an invitation, an Evans staffer said, and so the shopping center security guard didn't let her past the front door. But she was there, with two companions. "They drove up in a maroon Mercedes, one of those little two-seaters," said CBS reporter Jed Duvall, one of the hosts of the evening. "They stood around, opened the trunk. And then drove off."

Inside the gallery, the art lovers ate Brie and crackers, ogled the familiar faces that seemed to pop through the door every other minute. And they looked at the paintings, too.

"There are so many people," cried Mary Page Evans, "no one can see the paintings!" But people could, and some of them were buying, including a California businessman who shelled out $500 for his.

"Aren't they niffy?" said Tom Evans. "Mary Page has a lot of talent and a great zest for life."

"You're being a supportive spouse," said Anne Richardson, who was standing with husband Elliot, the former attorney general.

"I certainly am," said Evans.

The opening was supposed to close by 8 p.m., at which time 100 or so guests were invited out to Kensington for a buffet dinner at Ford's Theatre executive producer Frankie Hewett's house, hosted by several of the artist's friends. But at the gallery, the crackers kept crunching, and the conversation flowing.

"You're all doing a fabulous job," John Mitchell said to Allen and Nofziger. The White House pair accepted the compliment graciously. "Just don't stage any more of those incidents," he continued.

"Why Lyn," someone else exclaimed upon seeing him, "I didn't know you were an art lover!"

"You didn't!" said Nofziger. "I taught her all she knows."

A moment later Nofziger was invited by a friend to the see the Joffrey II Ballet. "I don't like ballet," said Nofziger. "Life is too short to spend it doing something you don't like."

"Okay," the friend said, "You saved me $20. You want to have lunch?"

Many of the guests said they'd come as a gesture of support for the Evans, though in support of what they didn't always say.

"It's really not a rally around the flagpole at the last minute by any means," said Pam Reynolds, another of the hostesses. "It's been planned for a long time."

"Evans was one of the first guys in the country to go for Reagan," said political consultant Roger Stone, explaining the heavy Republican turnout.

"I think you can say most people here are Republicans," said Nofziger. "Like This guy here," he continued, pointing to Allen.

"I beg your pardon, " said Allen.

"My wife and I are old and close friends of Tom and Mary Page," said Allen.

"You have no close friends," said columnist Robert Novak.

He and Allen than began a cryptic conversation. "Left or right," Novak demanded, "left or right?"

"Right," said Allen, eventually. He and Novak shook hands and parted ways.

"I'd be here for anyone in the administration," said Lewis, "and I think her work is good. As a matter of fact, my wife just bought a painting -- which is why it's time to leave."