I thought I was going to be a naval officer, an actor, a playwright--in that order. Through a series of accidents I found myself becoming a journalist, even more accidentally a television journalist . . . --from "The Right Place at the Right Time"

It was by no accident that Robert MacNeil found himself at Jim Lehrer's house last night, fielding questions about his new mini-memoir of his "accidental" profession.

"I haven't even read the book," said David Gergen, White House communications director. "What's it about?"

"Well," said a grinning Lehrer, one-half of the "MacNeil-Lehrer Report" television team, "it's a book about Reaganomics."

"Sounds like a novel," Gergen shot back.

"But you can't write about what you don't understand," said MacNeil.

The three stood in the living room of the Lehrers' Northwest Washington home. Lehrer and his wife, Kate, who have known MacNeil since before the show's beginning on PBS in 1975, were the hosts of the supper for about 100.

The party was more a meeting of the media, with television and print journalists milling about on the hardwood floors, filling the upstairs and downstairs of the house, than it was a promotion for the new book.

There were many guests from the major television networks and newspapers, including Judy Woodruff from NBC, Lesley Stahl from CBS and Walter Ridder of the Knight-Ridder chain. Invitations were also answered by British Ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson (who came more than two hours late), Sens. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), David H. Pryor (D-Ark.) and Paul E. Tsongas, (D-Mass.).

Only a few copies of MacNeil's book were visible among fresh flower arrangements, the artichoke and shrimp hors d'oeuvres and the copious drinks that floated by on waiters' trays.

"How did you arrive at the name of the book?" was a popular question asked of the suave, blond, Canadian-born MacNeil.

"After many back-and-forths," MacNeil said, "the editors at Little-Brown and I had finally decided. Then someone told me to look at Jeane Dixon's horoscope column that day. I never read the horoscope. So I turned to it--I'm a Capricorn--and it said, 'If you work hard, you'll find yourself in the right place at the right time.' "