EVEN presidents have nights when things just don't seem to go right.
About the time President Reagan was putting on his black tie at the White House last night, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue the House of Representatives was dealing him a dramatic defeat. Shortly before his guest, Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, pulled up at the North Portico, the House voted 245 to 176 to drop production funds for the controversial MX missile.
But by the time the two presidents, with their wives, posed for photographers just after 8 p.m., they were putting their best faces forward.
"Angry? Me?" President Reagan asked after the dinner, feigning surprise. "Obviously, I think the Congress was wrong. They picked the wrong day -- December 7" -- the 41st anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
A few steps away in the Blue Room, President Zia called the MX defeat "very sad. But I'm sure the president, with his ability to convince people, will be able to solve the situation in the next round."
Zia, who speaks fluent English and who attended two military schools in this country, said he and Reagan had a "brief discussion" about the MX.
"It's very untimely -- it ain't going to do any good to the United States of America," the Pakistani leader said.
Among the 130 black-tie dinner guests was former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who didn't mince words in his reaction to the House vote.
"Pity," said Kissinger.
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) interpreted the vote as saying "many things -- the Congress is troubled about the level of expenditures $988 million in production funds were deleted and, second, they have doubts about its basic plan for the installation and use."
He said he thought if the administration could clear up congressional doubts about both budget and basing, the matter could be "successfully" addressed again.
Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) said he believes Congress is not in a position at the moment to ratify or reject Dense Pack, Reagan's MX basing plan.
"We'll do something different than the House," Quayle said, predicting his colleagues would start doing it sometime this week.
In his toast Reagan told Zia, "Your commitment to peace and progress in South Asia and the Middle East has reinforced our commitment to Pakistan," and the president drew applause from the black-tie crowd in the State Dining Room.
In his response, Zia applauded the president for his efforts in the Middle East situation, saying it was the first time a president of the United States had put forth a "concrete plan." Urging the president to "be yourself and take this bold step," Zia called Reagan "the peacemaker . . . who can solve practically any insoluble problem."
The guest list was heavy with corporation chairmen, entertainment figures, media executives and political supporters. At least one of them had been making some headlines of his own across the border in Canada.
He was Richard DeVos, president and cofounder of Amway Corp., one of four Amway officials whom Canadian authorities have said they will try to extradite on charges of defrauding Canadian customs of $23 million. Amway -- a retailing firm -- and the four officials have denied any wrongdoing.
"It's a lie," DeVos said last night. "We've done what the Canadian government asked us to do 17 years ago and now they tell us we cheated . . .
"They're not going to extradite us. They can try, but they're not going to," he said.
DeVos was finance chairman of the Republican National Committee until he was fired from the job last summer ("for not kowtowing to the big-wigs enough," DeVos said). Last night, he denied he said at a press conference last week that he intended to use his political influence to block extradition.
"I said, 'When you're in a war you talk to all you friends to be helpful.' " Last night, at least, they did not appear to include such administration officials who were present as Attorney General William French Smith. Asked if he had spoken to Smith, DeVos said, "No ma'am. Never mentioned it." But he added he thought the attorney general "would support us as part of our citizenship, not on a political basis."
A presidential aide said "the White House did not know" about DeVos' problems in Canada. Invitations to last night's dinner went out three weeks before DeVos and the others hit the headlines.
Yesterday, a Canadian Embassy spokesman said, "No comment, since the matter's in court."
But it was the rekindling of warm relations between the United States and Pakistan that dominated the Zia dinner. Even before Zia left, he and Reagan were locked in a bear hug. And Shafiq Zia ul-Haq, the president's wife, got a big kiss from Reagan.
Nancy Reagan wore a form-fitting black velvet gown edged with satin, the designer of which she told fashion columnist Eugenia Sheppard she couldn't remember. "And I can't look at the label right now," she giggled, standing in the cross hall.
Texas socialite Joanne Herring, who is also Pakistan's honorary counsel, also wore black, but with a ruffled bustle that she provocatively switched back and forth. "In the great Southern tradition -- Yankees never do that," said one observer.
Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.), commenting on how he happened to be escorting Herring, said, "Down in Texas we have a saying. Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while."
Another sensation at the party was actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who told photographers upon arriving, "Don't come so close. I'm not so young anymore." Asked who the man in her life is these days, she said there wasn't one -- "just dogs and horses."
However, before she left the party, there was one. At the dinner of smoked trout, supreme of capon smitane and lemon souffle with blackberry sauce, she was seated next to White House Chief of Staff James Baker and promptly fell in love. "I'm in love with Jim Baker," she told another guest. "I'm only sorry he's married."
Retired Air Force brigadier general Charles Yeager quipped that he came "because it was free meal." Actually, he was the U.S. defense representative in Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and flew with that nation's air force. He also is the man who first broke the sound barrier 35 years ago. And what was it like, he was asked?
"It'll never replace sex," said Yeager.
But there was more.
Kirk Douglas talked about spending Thanksgiving in Pakistan, where he did a documentary about the problem of refugees from Afghanistan who have come to Pakistan.
Then there was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, brother of the Aga Khan and special representative of the United Nations secretary general.
When songwriter Joe Raposo and his wife, Pat Collins of CBS, arrived at the Diplomatic Entrance, they were asked how they wanted to be introduced. Collins said: "Mr. and Mrs. Cary Grant -- but they'll probably know the difference.
Carolyn Deaver arrived alone, because her husband, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, is in California advancing next year's visit of Queen Elizabeth II; but Carolyn Deaver was given a new identity. Arriving at the same time as Tom Van Sickle of Scottsdale, Ariz., they were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Van Sickle. "All we did was share a step," she said later. "I never saw him again all evening."
And Marjorie Everett, of Beverly Hills, got a big kiss from Reagan. She is the long-time social friend of the Reagans, who in 1981 gave them a brass clock and pair of earrings estimated by the Reagans to be worth $4,150. She is now part-owner of Hollywood Park, a race track in California, but before that, she owned a track in Illinois and figured in the bribery trial that led to the conviction of former Illinois governor Otto Kerner.
In a first since the Johnson years, military social aides invited unaccompanied guests -- and reporters -- to dance. Said one White House official, "You can say that 'In a move to control the press, they were kept dancing all night.'