Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones met President Carter at the Kennedy Center Sunday night and not at the White House as reported in late editions yesterday.

In what may be remembered as one of the encounters of the century, Mick Jagger met Jimmy Carter yesterday evening at the White House. If it was not love at first sight, Jagger carried away an impression of "charm."

"Yes, the president and I exchanged a few words," he recalled later. "Carter was actually very polite - and, of course, I was," he said during a disco party in the new East Building of the National Gallery.

Accompanied by his girl friendroommate Gerry Hall, whose waistlength blond hair and fur decolletage turned more than a few heads, Jagger was asked whether the president of the United States knew whom he was talking to.

"I would assume he did," said Jagger. "After all, I had my name emblazoned across my chest."

Earlier, in a corner of the White House dining room, Arthur Rubinstein, who has enjoyed every one of his 91 years, took a cigar out of his mouth to kiss the hand of a pretty woman.

Across the room, another Titanic encounter was taking place: Mstislav Rostropovich engulfed Sarah Caldwell in his patented Russian bearhug and found himself being engulfed in turn. Leonard Bernstein wandered past, humming -- with expression -- the tune that was being played by the Marine Band.

It was a star-studded guest list yesterday afternoon as the White House joined the Kennedy Center in paying tribute to five of America's leading performing artists. Before going on to last night's gala performance at the Kennedy Center, 500 guests dropped in at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to have a light snack and shake hands with the president.

Guests of honor, and recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors program awards were: contralto Marian Anderson, 70; choreographer George Balanchine, 74; composer Richard Rodgers, 74; pianist Arthur Rubinstein, 91; and singer-dancer-actor Fred Astaire, 79.

"It feels a little strange," said singer -- songwriter Art Garfunkel, whose age is not quite half that of any of the guests, "a little bit like old timers' night. But I felt honored to be invited and I think the invitation to me represents an effort to bridge the generation gap. Looking at these people, I realize that you have to put in at least 40 years of service to merit this kind of honor. My 15 years in show business are only a beginning."

At the other end of the age spectrum, Rubinstein said he was "not excited" at the latest in a long series of honors he has received since he first toured the United States in 1903. "I am pleased and happy, but I never get excited about anything except music," he said.

The gala evening originated as an idea of George Stevens Jr., director of the American Film Institute, according to Roger (no relation) Stevens, originator of the Kennedy Center and still its board chairman. "George came to us and said that the AFI Life Achievement Awards had worked so well in Los Angeles that it might be a good idea to try something like that here."

Henry Catto, chairman for last night's gala, compared the event to the Queen's Honors List in England. "The U.S. had nothing like that," he said, "so we thought it was time we did."

The money from last night's gala will be used for "general purposes" at the Kennedy Center, which has many general purposes in these days of leaking roofs and expanding facilities.

George Stevens said that the gala had three motivations: "We needed national recognition for artists, and we wanted to reach out for things of grace and beauty." He paused before adding, "And the Kennedy Center needs money," which may have been the most important reason of all.

Stevens estimated that the profits of last night's social activity, which will include a CBS telecast tomorrow night, will fall between $350,000 and $400,000.

After the White House it was off to the Kennedy Center, where the stellar audience had to brave the downpour and the Center's construction blockade and then run a gantlet of autograph seekers and just plain star gazers in the Kennedy Center's Hall of States.

George Balanchine, the first of the honorees to arrive, went unrecognized by a less sophisticated than usual crowd.

"Oooh," cooed one woman, "my God, it's Fred Astaire," and the crowd broke into applause for the venerable hoofer. He grinned as he escorted Lily P. Guest, (who heads the Friends of the Kennedy Center) to the other end of the hall.

But even with CBS cameras whirring away to record the doings for the rebroadcast tomorrow night, some celebrities like producer Hal Prince and songwriter/superstar Stephen Sondheim got past unrecognized. Others (Mick Jagger for one and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. for another) finessed the crowd with backdoor entrances.

Seats for the gala, which Center officials say is the first annual of its ilk, ranged from $25 to $150 a seat with four-seat boxes at $1,250. The affair was billed as a sort of high-class Academy Awards.

"It takes a lot to get me out in the rain," complained actress Elizabeth Ashley, in a black net gown. "I sure hope this show's a good one, because right now my rhinestone shoes are shrinking underneath me."

Other arrivals included John Backe, president of CBS, Inc.; lyricist Alan J. Lerner and composer Burton Lane, currently collaborating on a new musical; prima ballerinas of yesterday and today, Maria Tallchief, Natalia Makarova, Suzanne Farrell; ballet principal Ivan Nagy; and playwright John ("House of Blue Leaves") Guare. Also fashion columnist Eugenia Sheppard, Sam Spiegel, and playwright Tennessee Williams, who drawled of his White House hosts, "I looooove these people. They're southerners, you know."

From the political world -- identified much more quickly than any of the show-biz types -- were President Carter's secretary Susan Clough with Fairfax Hotel owner John B. Coleman. Also Jody and Nan Powell, Frank and Nancy Moore. But the crowd was only electrified when Sen. Edward Kennedy, accompanied by Jean and Stephen Smith and a gaggle of Kennedy children, walked in. Applause trailed them through the long hall.

The evening, which began with a roast-beef buffet at the White House, modulated into a gala tribute at the Kennedy Center and concluded with disco dancing at the new East Building of the National Gallery. President Carter, after welcoming the guests of honor and speaking in their honor at the White House, went on to see the gala performance in their honor at the Kennedy Center Opera House. He bowed out before the evening's final event at the National Gallery, but hundreds of others continued to celebrate -- lured, perhaps by the disco dancing, dim lighting, crabmeat soup and buffet that transformed the museum's basement cafeteria into a prime night spot -- at least for one evening. There were 200 well-populated tables at the evening's closing event.

Jagger, accompanied by President Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records and his wife, Mica, left early in search of "some eats." Jagger was wearing a knit cap and track shoes with his tuxedo.

"I can't eat here; I'm a vegetarian," cried Jagger, who capped his evening by swinging through the revolving doors several times on his way out.

In introducing his five honored guests, at the White House, President Carter said that "politics is the second oldest profession, and closely related to the first." He added that politics is "certainly the oldest and perhaps the foremost of the performing arts," and that he thinks his act may be a success because "I always leave the public demanding more."

After praising the guests of honor collectively for "not only American but worldwide greatness," he spoke briefly of each.

Marian Anderson's talent, he said, "was so great that racial prejudice could not stand in its way."

"Whenever anyone uses the word 'style' or 'class' they think about Fred Astaire."

Of George Balanchine, he said, "There is no argument around the world that he is the greatest choreographer of our century, and many of us who are very knowledgeable think he is the greatest in history."

He noted that Richard Rodgers had his first show on Broadway in 1925, and that "the quantity of his work can only be matched by its uniform, sustained quality."

He called Rubinstein "the world's most beloved concert pianist," and said "this love which he enjoys is obviously well-deserved."

One of the surprise stars of the evening was Alberta Hunter, a blues singer who had come out of a long retirement at Marian Anderson's urging. She was the only performer forced to give an encore during the long gala in the Opera House, and she said that nothing in her previous career had equalled the thrill of this show.

When her mother died, Hunter said, she went back to study nursing; then she worked in a hosiptal for the next 20 years. When she retired, "They thought I was 74 years old and I was really 82," she said. She began singing again a little over a year ago, and after last night's performance she commented: "I feel good... This is the thrill of my life."

One member of the audience, Gretchen Poston, offered to trump this thrill, predicting that Hunter would be singing soon at the White House. Since Poston is the one who books acts into the White House, this was probably a reliable prediction.

The guest list included personalities from Broadway, the business world, opera, and ballet, some of whom had been invited at the request of the Kennedy Center, as well as friends and supporters of the president. One of the show-business personalities there was Ginger Rogers, Astaire's most famous dancing partner. She was greeted with a kiss from Carter, whom she had met in Atlanta when he was the governor of Georgia. Later in conversation, Rogers said that she had never danced with Carter, but guessed that he must be "much better now than Fred -- Fred doesn't anymore, and I am sure the president does."

The chorus from Joe Papp's "A Chorus Line" did too, on stage, as the show honoring the anointed quintet went on.

One of the choice seats of the evening was held by Jessica Catto, who sat next to Fred Astaire in a section of loges that had the seat specially raised so that the capacity audience could see the guests of honor (and the president) without strain.

If she had known that she would be sitting in the spotlight, Catto said, "I would have had my hair done." She described Astaire as "shy, self-effacing, a very gentle soul," and said that he "mumbled critically" during the film clips of his own performances that were shown in his honor. The excerpt from "A Chorus Line" was a complete surprise to him, she said, and she felt that he was genuinely touched by the generous applause of the audience.

Overhead at intermission: Leonard Bernstein to Harry Belafonte -- "How do you get off stage, anyway?"

Belafonte to Bernstein, "By getting on. Once you get on you have to get off. Don't worry," singer soothed conductor-composer, "you'll find a way."