December 07, 1992 12:00 PM

TO FEAST OR NOT TO FEAST, THAT WAS the question. Is it nobler in Hollywood to spend your evening poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel chowing down on Peking duck and baby lamb chops while toasting a book whose royalties will go to AIDS research, or to sit on the cold floor of a Santa Monica Airport hangar eating rice to boost public awareness of Third World hunger?

Dolly Parton, Catherine Oxenberg and some 400 others chose the former recently, celebrating the release of Kelly (Mrs. Calvin) Klein’s $100 coffee-table book, Pools, at a posh reception featuring a water polo team and synchronized swimmers.

That same night, a few miles away, Jason Priestley, Alfre Woodard, Ed Asner and friends were going the hunger route, munching rice in paper bowls as part of Oxfam America’s third annual Hollywood Hunger Banquet. Most Americans “turn a blind eye to the world’s hunger and poverty problem,” said Priestley, whose randomly drawn lottery bead sentenced him to a scoopful of rice for dinner, a meal Oxfam says is typical of the diet of 60 percent of the Third World’s population. “I’ve gone hungry, but not like the people in Third World countries,” noted Lou Diamond Phillips, who like Priestley had drawn a black bead. Howard Hesseman, meanwhile, was eyeing the 15 percent of banquet-goers whose lottery bead entitled them to a gourmet dinner of shrimp and chicken kebabs. “There are more of us than people eating gourmet, so I say we over-take them,” said the former Head of the Class star. But of course, he added, “I’d like to do it in a nonviolent way.”

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