Beyond the paintings, actor Jason Lee was the reason for the high celebrity quotient.
"You can use Hollywood to your advantage," he said recently in his photography studio. At the opening, he said, guests had expected a typical industry schmooze party but had been drawn in by the art -- haunting large scale works, some of still-born children.
"They were enthralled by the work," he said. "It was a quiet, strange exhibit."
If people come for the celebrities but end up looking at the art, he has achieved his goal, he said.
For Helnwein, the mix of music, Hollywood and artists had served another purpose - generating more work.
He and Manson had agreed to do a project together, and Smith had commissioned him to do a large scale painting of his daughter. Helnwein couldn't wait to meet Dennis Hopper.
He was following in the (big) footsteps of another Austrian. As it had for Arnold, L.A. lay glittering in front of Helnwein. He was glad he had come West.
"New York is dead," he said.
Lee explained his vision -- drawing more people to contemporary art, and, in particular, to the gallery on Traction Avenue - as he and Helnwein gave a tour of Lee's studio and the gallery around the corner. (Helnwein has a studio loft next door to Lee's).
In Lee's studio, one of Helnwein's canvases, "Epiphany II (Presentation at the Temple)," a hyperrealisit painting in blue tones, depicts a young girl lying on a kitchen table in front of a semi-circle of disfigured men in formal suits.
"People are used to seeing things 24 frames a second," said Lee, adding that his goal was to get people to concentrate on just one frame at a time.
"This town needs it more than anywhere else."