B BETWEEN BITES PENNE, SALMON and fried eggplant, the man of the evening was roundly denounced as an insect, a reptile and a turncoat. In fact, as an eclectic group that included Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn, director Alan Pakula, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan and Bianca Jagger converged last week on the rain-soaked Hamptons to toast the new HBO movie Citizen Colin, just about everyone had something to say about Roy Cohn, the brilliant attorney who blazed a controversial trail through American politics before succumbing to AIDS in 1986.

Like a ghost crashing a bash in its own honor, Cohn's memory hovered over the screening and soiree hosted by HBO. Four hundred of the lawyer's old friends and foes (many of whom remembered his role as a zealous aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and ruthless power-broker for the rich and famous) mingled under an enormous tent at chic Sapore di Mare, where the man who played Cohn in the movie, James Woods, was holding court. "I was always afraid of that man," Diane Von Furstenberg said of Cohn. "He was a worm." Added feminist writer Betty Friedan: "The film will teach a whole generation about one of the most evil men who ever lived."

Blacklisted during the 1950s, when Cohn and others were trying to purge Hollywood of alleged Communists and presumed fellow travelers, Lee Grant allowed that she look on the movie role of his mother as an act of emotional "revenge." Watching Woods as Cohn on the offense, she said, "is like watching a snake eat a rabbit." Hors d'oeuvres, anyone?