ABC pharaoh Roone Arledge came to his own Monday night football party so fashionably late last night that he only had to stay about 30 minutes. p"It's the only way you can survive," he explained, sweating like a linebacker on third down and short. "If you get here early, you never get out of a corner."

But Arledge, as often happens with party celebrities, never quite got out of the traffic pattern around the enranceway to the Redskins' Starplex Clubhouse. Fans and other flounder kept fluttering around him, saying stuff like "Listen, when can we meet?" or "Roone, meet my son!"

Arledge, president of ABC News and Sports, kept grinning. And sweating. "Too damn hot for a party," he said.

That's because this pregame reception was truly a mob scene, stuffed bar to bar with several hundred sports, media and political folks who kept eating, drinking and rubbernecking to see what famous person might turn up next. A few did, but it wasn't the stellar political crowd that has surfaced in past years.

Still, if you had wandered over to the sliced ham, you could have seen CBS News President William Leonard. He didn't look uncomfortable among the ABC people at all.

"I wanted to come this year," he explained, spreading some mustard on rye, "because this is the first year I didn't have an invitation."

But isn't that crashing?

"Not really," he said, smiling pleasantly. "Only a little."

Among the other certified celebrities was Robert Urich, star of ABC's "Vega$." He wore a three-piece suit and an uncertain look, claiming he doesn't go to parties in Hollywood because he's originally from a small town in Ohio. And Washington?

"I haven't been here since I was an altar boy on a field trip," he said, apparently meaning every word of it.

Holding court near Urich was ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell, who appeared more than a little testy before the opening of this Dallas-Washington game. "Don't touch me," he said to somebody who wasn't going to. His burly companion moved closer.

A little later in the evening, after Cosell had been safely shuttled away, things did in fact get physical. This was near the elegant, candle-lit buffet table, where two grown men suddenly began the kind of fist-fight you can often see in sleazy bars.

Everybody swarmed around, and had to pry the two apart as if they were snarling dogs.

"Don't ever put a hand on me again!" yelled one snarler to the other. "Don't ever do that to me again!" And then these two were also shuttled away, much too fast for anybody to find out who they were and why they were fighting so viciously.

In a quieter part of the room were a few stewardesses who regularly fly with the Cowboys.

"We love it," said Stewardess Number One.

Any favorites?

"Yeah," said Stewardess Number Two. "Billy Joe DuPree."

"Butch Johnson," said Stewardess Number Three.

"They have curfews, so we never see them," sighed Number Two.

"But we love them anyway," said Number Three.

"They dress real nice," said Number Two. "They're real polite."

"Sweethearts," said Number One.

Wiggling here and there through the mob were ABC sportscaster Frank Gifford, FCC chairman Charles Ferris, Rep. John Breaux (D-La.), presidential assistant Anne Wexler, National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Joe Duffey, ABC anchor Frank Reynolds, ABC correspondent Sam Donaldson, assorted network underlings and a smattering of young White House staffers.

A few of these staffers admitted they actually had to do some wangling with ABC to get tickets to a party that traditionally has terrific food and drink. "If you see the president on ABC tomorrow night," said one staffer who was eating a bursting gyro sandwich, "you'll know we really did some work." w