HE CARTER family's appointments secretary - whose disillusionment with celebrity existence in Washington is what this story is all about - showed up at Buckingham Palace not long ago, only a few places down the table from his luncheon host, the next King of England.

It didn't exactly signify the social acceptability of Rick Hutto ("Contrary to popular belief," Hutto would say later, "people from Georgia can be couth") but it did prove a point: Heretofore unknown - and more often than not young-Carter administration faces were showing up in some unexpected places.

More surprising, still, to some paying attention, was that they were showing up. A few months earlier when Jimmy Carter came to town, pariahs of the social scene had been predicting a lack-luster four years ahead. With the so-called "Georgia mafia," a bunch of "clannish" workaholics, in the White House, they warned, Washington could expect to roll up the streets for the duration.Washington never did, though for awhile it was true that you hardly ever saw Anybody from Jimmy Carter's White House doing Anything Anywhere that was considered Anyplace.

"We had to get up here and prove ourselves," said Hutto, who claims the press and public completely "misread" his and fellow Georgians' social habits. "After two years of campaigning, it was almost ludicrous to have a night off."

Once settled in though, things began to change. Carter people were turning up in Georgetown clubs, on Watergate terraces, at Embassy Row dinner tables and even at the unpretentious two-floor apartment which Hutto and fellow Carterite Steve Elkins, of Hugh Carter's staff, rent in "an emerging" 15th Street NW neighborhood.

And one who seemed to be turning up as much as anybody was Hutto, destined - some would have been willing to bet - to become the Carter administration's young man about town.

"Suddenly," said Hutto, "there were all these invitation, and you though how hospitable everybody was."

Besides the 100 or so invitations coming in every week for the Carter family, there were personal invitations to Hutto.

"If I realize that the reason I'm invited is to get to the Carter, I regret," Hutto said at the time, "I'm not about to be anybody's passage to the Carters. If I get an invitation from somebody I don't know, I immediately regret. If they want me, I accept."

In June, as Hutto's social star continued its ascendancy, he flew off to London with Chip and Caron Carter, the President's official representative to Queen Elizabeth's 25th anniversary jubilee. Prince Charles entertained the contingent, which also included U.S. Chief of Protocol Evan S. Dobelle, fordrinks in his royal apartment.

"Then," recounted Hutto later with just the proper degree of detachment, "we all went to lunch at the palace."

He never met the queen, but back in status - concious Washington there were enough other royal anecdotes. One had the Queen of England accidentally bumping into Chip Carter at her jubilee fireworks display, startling eveyone by telling him: "You're Chip Carter - I saw you on television today."

At the White House, invitations proliferated. If it wasn't royalty (this time Britain's Princess Anne and her husband as luncheon guests - like Hutto - of the junior Carters), it was theater openings, benefit concerts, blacktie dinners and cocktail buffets. Both endurance and wardrobe were taxed, with Hutto solving the latter by buying a back-up tuxedo and the former by resolving that "I could go out every night but obviously I'm not going to."

He went out often enough or, as he said, keeping his wits about him, "as long as it doesn't affent my work." After campaigning a year and a half and surrendering, as it were, to social abstinence or what he now calls "celibacy," there had followed something else he also calls his "blue period."

That wa the two-month span between Jimmy Carter's election and his inauguration when as transition director or the Carter family's correspondence Hutto had begun to doubt there were any other kind of Wahington work days than 16-hour ones.

Sharing living quarters with eight others from the transition staff, Hutto got up at 6:30 a.m! to tackle the 1,000 letters that arrived each week at Carter headquarters. Never home before 10:30 at night, when he and the others did put their feet up it was to "sit around and tell the horrors of the day."

By January, when Rosalynn Carter asked him to join he senior White House staff as family appointments secretary, there was another option. Despite some sporadic time-outs to work in the Carter campaign, his old job in the office of Georgia lieutenant governor was still open.

He had left it for the first time in March, 1976, at the invitation of Carter's southern coordinator Frank Moore. Dispatched to a North Carolina congressional district with orders "to cut out losses," Hutto, in a week's time managed to do more than that: "We won by 51 per cent," the March 23 primary. After that came Georgia, Florida and Montgomery County, Md., before rejoining Lt. Gov. Zell Miller's staff and waiting out the convention. In August, Hutto was back on the campaign trail, this time as assistant director of scheduling for Rosalynn Carter.

A native of Fitzgerald, Ga., Hutto had more urban ambitions than those identified with that small farming community near Plains. As an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, he majored in political science, minored in Latin ("I can read mottos over doors") and music. At graduate school, he earned his master's in journalism, finishing up in August 1975.

As fascinated by the theater as he was by politics, he was off to Savannah and a brief fling in films. First it was a bit part in "Gator," starring Burt Reynolds, then as an assistant producer of "Squirm," starring Don Scardino.

By December, Jimmy Carter, the ex-Georgia governor with ambitions that were hardly peanuts, was moving toward the showdown. Returning to Atlanta, Hutto signed on as a weekend. By January, he and the rest of Jimmy Carter's fledging Peanut Brigade marched into New Hampshire.

A year later, with Carter's dream now a reality Hutto, for one, was wide awake.

"I hated Washington," he said.

Rich Hutto's assimilation into Washington social life was helped along by Betty Talmadge, ex-wife of Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, as much as anyone.

"She was worried," he said, "that I wouldn't like it here and would go home."

On both counts he didn't, staying on to become appointments secretary to Jimmy Carter's family. Hutton's Washington social debut almost came in late February when Talmadge asked him to accompany her to a dinner party that man-about-town Steve Martindale was giving for Liz Carpenter.

The day of the party dawned, and so did Caron Carter's labor pains. Hutto's job description didn't include it, but "I was pacing the floor outside the labor room when I remembered 'my god, the dinner party' and I rushed to the phone and calle Betty."

It provided Martindale the ammunition to later tease Hutto over a get-acquainted lunch that "having a baby was the most original excuse anybody ever had" to get out of one of his dinners.

It may or may not have touched off a chain reaction of heightened social activity for Hutto. But in ensuing months, he found himself included on double dates to the theater, in late-night stops at Pisces, at Sunday night dinners given by Washington hostess Ina Ginsburg, at Swedish Embassy for dinner.

He met Countess Ulla Wachmeister, wife of the Swedish ambassador, at one of Ginsburg's "little dinners. "We talked theater," he remembers of their conversation, and the next thing he knew she invited him to a party for her son, Eric.

About the same time all that was happening, some Washington peculiarities were becoming apparent: Most party-goers seemed unable to carry on a conversation without a drink in their hand, and most had an insatiable appetite for gossip, especially White House gossip.

On more than one occasion, Washington's "gauche or snob element" asked Hutto:

Whose marriages were breaking up?

Who was running around with whom?

Why the Carters didn't put Amy in a private school?

Why Rosalynn Carter didn't do something about her hair?

If Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were as affectionate in private as they were in public, or was their behavior toward one another done for public consumption?

At one dinner party, two women on either side of him were "cutting down" the Carters and the White House with such viciousness that he almost got up and left.

His own parties, given with Steven Elkins, were hardly on the scale Washington had become accustomed to. Though Martindale was a friend, he was no role model. "Steve is known as a party-giver and -goer.I have no such ambitions," Hutto said.

Then, too, there was a little matter of money. Despite the publicity given some White House salaries, Hutto said his own was "lower" than others on Mrs. Carter's staff - "but I'm also only 23. And while it is more money per se, it also costs more to live here. I haven't even bought a car yet."

Even so, few among Hutto's eclectic combination of Washington party-goers - the youthful, the sagacious, the successful and the hustling - could quarrel with the wine, the quiche or the proximity to power being served them.

Sometimes Chip and Caron were at his parties, sometimes Jeff and Annette, sometimes all four young Carters and almost always someone else with white House clout or a line to the President. Credentials like that were not exactly lost upon a oneupsman town such as Washington.

"Meet Rick Hutto," one host said, introducing Hutto to the wife of a prominent Democratic senator, and then leaned over to whisper a postscript "who schedules the Carter family."

Hutto mistook the attention for hospitality, finding it flattering "until you realized that if you were a junior aide on The Hill, you wouldn't be getting those invitations. Tell people you worked in government and they'd react like 'So what.' Tell them you worked at the White House and they'd greet you like a long lost friend."

By mid-summer, Hutto was beginning to wonder about some of his new friends, "many of them you read about in the society columns." Some were "wounderful and if I left the White House tomorrow, they'd still be my friends."

By mid-August he was wondering about Chip and Caron Carter's friends as well.

"People who were their friends suddenly were talking" about the young Carters' marital problems, to any reporter who asked. "That was the biggest blow of all."

About the same time, Hutto also began wondering about his own celebrity.

Seated the other day in his White House office, where a color photograph of Rosalynn Carter gazes benignly upon his work-cluttered desk, Hutto said that what hurts, as much as anything, is finding out that "this town breeds cynicism.

"For two years we wanted to get to Washington to get rid of cynicism in government. Now I'm the one who's become cynical - not by government but by the people who live in Washington.

"Anybody in the public eye is open to public scrutiny, people should know that. And if you don't fit any existing mold or if you aren't Bohemian enough, they'll make up a lifestyle for you - you're either a lecher, a gigolo, gay or a moocher."

His old boss, the lieutenant governor, called him recently because "he can read me like a book. 'Politics is both ebb and flow,' he said, 'and you happen to be in low tide right now.'"

With the reconciled Chip and Caron Carter back in Plains, Hutto's duties are changing from the days when the couple received 70 per cent of the 100 or more invitations coming in weekly to the Carter family.

"What was a very busy job in the first part of the year, no longer is and it's the general feeling that that job can be handled at this time by other members of the staff," said Rosalynn Carter's East Wing coordinator and press secretary Mary Hoyt.

Hutto agrees that the position is different now that Chip and Caron have moved away and said it is going to take time to decide what he wants to do. Meanwhile, he is reassessing where he is - "there are lots of options, some inside the White House, some outside" - and waiting, perhaps, for the next chapter in the greening of Richard Jay Hutto.