THEY LOVE him at the beauty parlor. Matter of fact, it was at a beauty parlor in the Northbrook Plaza shopping center, Fort Wayne, Ind., that the ladies first noticed the startling resemblance between Dan Quayle, now United States senator, and Robert Redford, movie star.

This does not please Quayle. Or his wife.

"There were those on the campaign trail," says his wife, Marilyn, "who would say, 'I'm not going to vote for him because he's running on his looks.' Well, what's he going to do -- put a bag over his face?"

Even Redford noticed the resemblance, or at least the hoopla. During the campaign, he sent Quayle a telegram telling him to stop the look-alike references in his promotional literature.Quayle responded with his own telegram, saying it was the fault of the Indiana media, not his literature. But after he won the election, he sent Redford a picture of himself. Autographed.

Strawberry-blond hair. Blue eyes. Cute. The golden boy who played varsity golf in high school, joined the right fraternity in college and has a family that owns the biggest newspaper chain in Indiana.

It's a life, from the Midwestern money to the astonishing political ascension, that seems nothing less than charmed. In fact, he is reminiscent of the character Redford played in "The Way We Were" -- the one who wrote in his short-story class that his life was like America's. Everything came easily, he wrote -- perhaps too easily.

Ask Quayle what he's lost in his life, and he mentions interfraternity council elections. Four years ago, when they asked him to run for the House, he laughed.And won.

Now he's another of the new Senate Republicans, a 33-year-old elected to the seat once held by Birch Bayh, the powerful liberal who was a presidential possibility in the old days. During the campaign, critics called Quayle a lazy and ineffectual congressman. But Bayh, who has never won by a large margin, was hurt by conservative political action groups (Quayle disavowed them) and the nationwide Republican sweep.

"Danny's one of the most salable people I've ever seen in politics," says Orvas Beers, a local county chairman back home. "He's the one-on-one type of candidate who's hard to beat."

"He's beyond a doubt the shallowest person ever to come out of Indiana," grumps a former Bayh staffer.

"I think I'm in love," said a woman during a rally at the Fort Wayne Holiday Inn on the Thursday before the election. "I know I'm in love." She gazed fondly at her matinee idol.

"Life has been very good to me," says Quayle. "I never had to worry about where I was going to go. But I do say, 'Dan you know, some time in life there's going to be a tragedy.'"

He is jogging. Steady. Steady, like the tractors that comb up and down the Mall's dry grass in autumn, making pockmarks on the surface. He is running, and reflecting.

Quayle is reflecting, as he passes the Botanical Gardens, that he has to call Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, about the Labor and Human Resources Committee. He wants to know what Hatch is going to do with the health subcommittee. Quayle is thinking maybe he'll try for it.

It is just after 7:30 a.m.

Marilyn Quayle is tall, slim and dark. Her brown hair is cut to just below her ears, styled in a soft pageboy. She wears a white wool sweater, a white wool shirt, a red quilted jacket.

She doesn't look like Mrs. Senator's Wife. Hates the teas, too. During the campaign she refused to do ladies' luncheons, but made speeches on the issues.

"People are so shocked when they see me," she says. "They don't expect someone who is antisocial -- and intelligent."

At the moment, she is raising the children: Tucker, 6; Benjamin, 4; Corinne, 2. "Three is all I can do as a single parent," she says, "because that's basically what I am . . . It's the time commitment of your husband. He's gone -- always.He rarely has a weekend at home. He leaves the house at 6:30 in the morning, and comes home at 7 at night. The whole thing is emotionally draining . . ."

"In politics," she continues, "everybody owns you. Or feels like they own you." Especially now.

"When we first came to Washington," she adds, "we were part of a super minority and were treated as really nothing. We know where we were four years ago, two years ago, even a year ago. So we know who our friends are -- and who's just trying to use Dan."

She has agreed to talk, not at her four-bedroom home in McLean but in the Rayburn Building. "There's a point where the public life should end, and the private life should start," she says. "It gets to the point of voyeurism."

The setting for the interview: a cold marble reception hall, coffee that won't stay warm, ceilings high as a house, spooky echoes around the corner. The windows of the Ice Palace look out toward the Capitol, made sparkling but not warm by the brittle sun.

Her husband calls this "the focal point of the whole world." If the sight moves her like it does her husband, she doesn't say.

"I'm very cynical," she explains. "But Dan literally always sees the good in everyone. He likes everybody he meets, always finding something to like about them and ignoring all the rest. I think that's why he's come so far in such a short time."

He is seating. A blue knit hat mats the hair down against his forehead, and his breath, visible as white vapor against the morning's mist, blows out in even tufts. He passes the Smithsonian. Steady, mechanical. He is reflecting, as his Brooks shoes hit heel, toe, heel, toe against the gravel, about a reception this evening. He's not sure where it is, or what it is. Something with his wife. He can't remember.

He lopes aroung the Washington Monument, heel, toe, completing the circle to see the Capitol posed like the Taj Mahal before him. He loves this.

Now he heads back. Heel, toe, heel . . .

He begins to think about tennis.

"He has not, it's fair to say, had a very prodigious legislative record in the House," says Rep. Floyd Fithian (D-Ind.) of Quayle. "There are several schools of thought, and one of those is that if your don't make many waves, it's easy not to get any people stirred up against you when you run for the Senate. The most positive thing you can say is that this was his game plan -- not to tackle controversy."

From the beginning, Quayle appears to have been a model of good behavior -- a bright scion of the good and charmed life. The eldest of four children, he was born in Indianapolis but raised in Arizona and Huntington as the son of a newspaper executive who married into the Pulliam family, owners of the Indianapolis Star and other Indiana newspapers. By the time Quayle was 16, his father was publisher of the Huntington Herald-Press.

"I did everything that an ordinary boy at that age is supposed to do," says Quayle, who grew up in a barn-red house outside of Huntington with woods and a swimming pool. A pond was nearby. "I covered all the grounds as far as athletics -- basketball, golf, two years on the football team."

Now he is in his office, comfortably slouched in a blue leather chair, one blue pin-striped leg thrown over the edge, one oxford-cloth arm used for resting his head. He looks relaxed and freshly showered, as if he's just come from the gym. He has.

His manner is warm and friendly the nice guy at the party who dances with the wallflower, or the good mixer who asks a casual friend to join a group at the club table. He asks all the polite questions about family and schools.

His was DePauw University. In Indiana. Because: "Both my parents went to DePauw, my grandfather went to DePauw, my uncle went to DePauw, and I was the oldest grandchild, and I always sort of wanted to go to DePauw."

With DePauw came Delta Kappa Epsilon. "Deke." Because: "I'm like a fourth-generation Deke. On both sides. My grandfather on the Quayle side was a Deke at Illinois, my grandfather on the Pulliam side was a Deke, my father was a Deke, my uncle was a Deke."

In college, Quayle also waited tables at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house, for $40 a month. He says the family fortune he kept reading about in newspapers during the campaign is a myth.

"My grandfather didn't believe in inherited wealth," he says, smiling earnestly. "He put it all in trust. The trust is in perpetuity, which is two lifetime plus 21 years."

"We'll see it," sighs his wife, "when Dan's 80, probably. He's not indolent rich. It's not that kind of money. The family is just well-off."

Quayle met her when both were going to night law school in Indianapolis. In the daytime, he was administrative assistant to then-Gov. Edgar Whitcomb and, as she recalls, considered quite a catch. But he asked her out five or six times before she said yes.

"I didn't think he was all that spectacular-looking, actually," says his wife. "I mean, he was nice-looking, but I'd always dated people who were tall and dark . . . He was used to having women hang all over him. It never occurred to me that some males deserved to be hung over . . .

"I get embarrassed for the ladies when they come on a little bit too much," she adds, recalling days on the campaign trail. "Somebody would have to beat him over the head to make him aware of a woman's attention."

But after the first date with his future wife, Quayle's courtship went fast and easily. The charm. They were married 10 weeks later, in 1972. "A real meeting of the minds," says his wife. "Everything clicked perfectly. Our political philosophies are the same. Our ideas on the family, and what's important in life, are the same."

They returned to Huntington, where Quayle became associate publisher, under his father, at the Herald-Press. He helped promote a new shopping center, worked on the United Way board, played lots of golf. In February 1976, at a Fort Wayne Press Club luncheon, Allen County Republican chairman Orvas Beers asked him to run for Congress against popular Democratic incumbent Ed Rousch.

"We thought he was joking," says his wife. "We really did, Dan came home and told me, and I said, 'Oh, that's crazy.' But we talked and talked and talked, and finally I just said, 'I'm not going to say a word." Because I would have told him not to run. We had one young child at that time, and I was pregnant, and that was not how I wanted to raise my children."

But Quayle ran a hard campaign in Indiana's conservative 4th District, and surprised a lot of eople by beating Rousch. Quayle won again two years later, and now says, in the after-glow of the Senate victory:

"I've been very fortunate in my young life . . . My decisions weren't being able to find something, they were being able to decide what I wanted to do. There was never anything where 'I've got to work really hard to get there . . .'

"I really have very few low moments. But when I lose at something -- whether it be a fight on a committee, or I lose on the floor, I'm just one of those persons able to shift and go on to something else the very next moment. I totally block it out. I just don't think about it."

He begins to head back. Steady. He passes the Museum of Natural History and thinks, as he moves by the dinosaur, how he ought to play more tennis. Golf is his game, but nobody plays golf. Tennis is parties, clubs. Everybody plays tennis.

He runs on.

Quayle still likes golf much more than running, and on summer mornings sometimes fits in nine holes before getting to Capitol Hill. Other congressmen and staffers have called him part of the "wet hair" crowd -- one of those who spends a good deal of time in the House showers.

His committee-meeting attendance record, called dismal by his opponents and average by his staff, became an issue in the Senate campaign. Last March the Indiana media reported that in 14 months Quayle missed 40 of 61 sessions of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. A month earlier Jack Anderson had amused readers with this:

"Rep. Dan Quayle's campaign committee recently filmed footage of the candidate supposedly hard at work on Capitol Hill. A camera crew shot Quayle entering and leaving the hearing room of the House Small Business Committee . . . Half an hour later, though, when the subcommittee opened a hearing in the same room, Quayle was nowhere to be seen -- the fifth time this year he has played hooky."

Responds Rich Galen, Quayle's press secretary: "For the most part, most members don't go to very many subcommittee meetings. It's not a legitimate judgment of a member's dedication."

In four years, Quayle cites a handful of amendments as his legislative accomplishments. One provides that the hostages in Iran won't have to pay federal income tax during the time they are held; another prohibits chemical or biological warfare tests near populated areas unless local officials are given 30 days's notice. He's considered a mainstream Republican believing in tax cuts, a tough line on Iran, increasing the military budget and decreasing federal spending.

"It's difficult, if not impossible," says Galen, "for a freshman or sophomore member of the minority party in the House to get a piece of legislation through." This frustrated Quayle, who in Huntington had become accustomed to promoting a building's construction, then watching it go up. "There's a great deal of excitement to be able to see and have input in a local community like that," he says.

One day last summer, in a fight that erupted during a meeting of the House Small Business Committee, Quayle angrily remarked: "I feel I am getting rolled on this."

He was right. He lost.

But as a candidate, Quayle is a dream. "He's a person with a lot of personal magnitude and charm," says Beers, the local party chairman who got Quayle into politics. "I felt that the young people would like him, I felt the businessmen would respect him, and I felt the women would be attracted to him. I was right on all three counts."

In the Senate race, Quayle ran an aggressive campaign against Bayh's voting record, painting him as a free-spending liberal who was "simply out of step with the majority of people in Indiana."

In a conservative tide, and in a traditionally conservative state, he was right. Ronald Reagan won in Indiana by more than 400,000 votes, Quayle by less than 200,000. "He came along in a good year," says John Brademas, the former Majority Whip from Indiana who was beaten by a Republican this election. Bayh's people say Quayle was a tough opponent -- impart because he was an attractive Republican, and in part because he was hard to attack on the issues they say played nothing but a minor role in his campaign.

"It was hard to come up with a negative on Quayle because he hadn't been in Congress that long to build up a record," says Brademas. But Brademas likes Quayle. "a very agreeable, personable young man," he says.

"You cannot dislike him," adds another member of the House. "He's personable, he's handsome, he's fun to be around, and he's about a quarter of an inch deep."

From his wife, answering that charge:

"Sure, people are going to say he's just a pretty face. But I know there is something there. He's very bright, although it's not the Rhodes scholar type of intelligence. His mind is very quick, very retentive, and he can take a piece of legislation and read it through and see the flaw in every angle . . .

"He really thinks he can do something," she continues. "That's why he ran for the Senate. Because being in the House, in the minority, he just couldn't get things done."

He runs by the National Gallery of Art. He runs by the East Building. He crosses Third Street. He passes the Reflecting Pool, then up Independence Avenue, into a garage that leads to the showers.

He takes off his knit cap. His cheeks are rosy and he smiles, with charm. CAPTION: Picture 1, no caption, By Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Marilyn, Dan and Corinne Quayle after the Senate victory, UPI; Picture 3, Sen. Can Quayle; by Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post;