NEW YORK (AP) _ As she approaches her 90th birthday, grande dame of the theater, Helen Hayes, has some stories to tell. There's not many who can say they danced the conga with artist Diego Rivera or knew Edward Hopper well enough to call him ''a grumpy old son of a gun.''

Hayes, whose birthday is Oct. 10, is an avid art collector and was a friend to many contemporary artists including Peter Hurd and Walt Kuhn.

In an article written for the October issue of Arts & Antiques magazine, she talks about some of those friends including Hopper, who lived down the street from Hayes and her playwright husband Charles McArthur in Nyack.

She recalls her husband asking Hopper to paint a picture of their beloved Victorian home, ''Pretty Penny.''

''Oh, what a grumpy old son of a gun he was 3/8 So unappealing. There we all sat in our living room with his wife and agent and he refused to have anything to do with painting the house,'' Hayes recalled. '''I have to have air in my paintings' he said adamantly and left.''

A few weeks later, the actress' daughter, Mary, came home and announced there was a man outside making a picture of their house.

''I went to the window and sure enough, there was Hopper, grumpy as ever, sketching our house.''

She said she met Rivera in Acapulco when she was invited to a New Year's Eve party at the home of a woman who often posed for the artist.

''While Diego labored in his studio above us, we began to make merry and started a conga line. Suddenly, Diego appeared downstairs in his pajamas and joined the line.''

And Hayes' assessment of the artists dancing prowess? ''He congaed the way he did everything else - very intensely.''