We were strolling by the Corcoran last Wednesday night, collar upward because of the blustery wind, when we noticed the warm lights on after hours, which seemed to beckon us in. Much to our delight, a party was on for the opening of the museum's new exhibit, "The Art of The New Yorker: A 60-Year Retrospective," and as serendipity would have it, it was attended by people whom we have always known and loved but never met.

There, in one cozy corner with his hand wrapped around a full-bodied glass of wine, was Charles Addams, who has given us welcome goose bumps over the years with his gruesome "Addams Family." (Can it really be more than 50 years of cartoons, as Addams claims?) A gentle man, he smiled a pleasure-to-be-here smile at all his fans gathered around for autographs and conversations, revealing nothing of the creepy-as-bats thoughts that must fly around his head to create that unique graveyard humor.

And over there, a robust and boisterous George Booth, not at all like the feather-scrawl denizens of his cartoons, who live in a hilarious squalor of too many cats and dust balls. "This stuff makes people happy," he surmised. "Look at them," he added, sweeping his generous hand over the packed crowd. Just as he promised, most leaned into the cartoons, faces wrinkled in wide grins, laughing again and again at familiar ones. "They are like Laurel and Hardy movies," said Booth of the cartoons. "You always knew Laurel was going to fall in the mud, but you loved it anyway."

Yes, the people gathered loved it. And would love, one would guess, to have some of these works hanging on their walls. (To note: the large scale of many of the pieces was a surprise as most of us are used to seeing them on smaller pages.) "If The New Yorker didn't originate cartoons as a popular art form, then we certainly perfected it," said New Yorker art director Lee Lorenz. "People seem to have a real affinity for this stuff."

And when it was over, there was that winter chill to face again. But not without a little warmth. We and all there were given a book of collected cartoons to take with us out into the harsher elements. The protection being, of course, a grin, a laugh, a giggle.

Art of the '80s on Film

Starting Thursday, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will premiere a six-part film series, "State of the Art," which will run weekly through March 26. The British-produced series is a survey of art in the '80s, called "a course and a Who's Who in contemporary art." Each part is built around a theme or issue important to the featured artists, who include Carlo Maria Mariani, Anselm Kiefer and Eric Fischl. For information, call 356-2700.

Successful Benefits

Karen Akers' benefit performance of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" last week at the Kennedy Center raised $40,000 for the Washington Ballet's guest choreography fund in memory of late artistic director Choo-San Goh. Other donations have brought the total up to $60,000. According to ballet officials, the money will be put in an endowment fund, and only the interest will be used to fund a choreographer. They expect to have someone in place by next season.

Also just in: The December benefit for the Children With AIDS Fund raised $2,800. "We are hoping to make this at least an annual, if not semiannual event," said organizer Ray Chesnick, who with Mark Jolin brought together a group of local performers to entertain at the event.

Midcourse Political Correction

The sidesplitting "Oh So Politically Correct Players," a musical comedy troupe that specializes in political satire, is splitting up -- at least temporarily. Founder Gay Thomas is moving to Wisconsin, leaving partner Karen Friedman to find another collaborator before the political season moves into high gear. "The timing is bad," said Friedman, who says she has been getting a lot of requests for the group now that politics is on everyone's mind because of the upcoming elections. "Hopefully, I can find someone who thinks this whole process is as funny as I do."

Novel Reading From Mexico

Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes will read Friday night at 8 at the National Press Club to benefit the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Fuentes is teaching at George Mason University this semester ... This is the last week to see the popular "Georgia O'Keeffe" exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. The show, which has attracted crowds totaling 377,000, will close Sunday. There will be no extension, because the show is due in Chicago. Gallery officials hate to see it go. "We are still getting calls about the show from everyone -- for filming, from newspapers or the general public," says Katie Zigler. "A day doesn't go by without someone wanting to know about it."