Almost nobody who was anybody drove himself to the Kennedy Center last night for any of the three gala concerts and two candlelight suppers that were open by invitation only to people who had made substantial contributions to the Reagan campaign and paid $500 for a ticket. There was no place for the cars, and only those with chauffeurs made it to the entrance on wheels.

They walked in past a gauntlet of photographers, Secret Service men and polite but firm persons in plainclothes or military uniforms who stood under banners that said "America . . . A Great New Beginning." Credentials were checked carefully before anyone was allowed to take the elevator up to the atrium, where the dinners were given, or even to walk over to the checkroom, where coats could be left for $1.

Security may have been the reason why the Kennedy Center garage was cordoned off and left empty, or practically empty, while the cars driving up the ramp to the entrance were shuffled aside by police to look for parking somewhere else.

Besides keeping the cars out, the security forces had uniformed guards stationed at strategic spots on the access routes from the garage to the upstairs parts of the Kennedy Center. Behind this facade of security, everything seemed serene upstairs in the atrium, where 2,500 guests were fed in two shifts -- striped bass before the concerts or veal afterward, with California wines to wash it down.

Spotted in the mixture of celebrities attending the concerts -- Andy Warhol and James Stewart among them -- was Joan Kennedy, who said she was there because she was "in town for the holidays" and had never seen Mikhail Baryshnikov perform. She said she'd be heading back to Boston soon for her long-awaited last semester at school.