The liveliest party I ever attended was put on by the late Fred Othman, a Washington columnist who had been a Hollywood columnist. Put-on is an exact description.

It turned out that during his Hollywood stint, Fred had attended parties with Harpo Marx as host or guest. Harpo was an expert juggler, among his many talents, and he delighted in having near-disasters with food and drink and guests who weren't aware of his expertise. Fred remembered, and for his party he hired a juggler and assistants as bartender, waiters and stooges.

Early on, one of the stooges got a tray of drinks spilled on her head. Shortly thereafter, a platter of hors d'oeuvres was placed on a chair just as Fred was starting to sit. And all the unsuspecting guests were subject to near-misses. Before long, most guests suspected this was too much to be unplanned, but they weren't certain until one of the stooges, an amply endowed female, gasped as the bartender, deep in conversation with another guest, poured a pitcher of martinis into her cleavage. But the gasp was all. The martinis just disappeared -- it turned out -- into a hot water bottle under her gown.

The ploy was out, but then the entertainment started in earnest, with demonstrations, instruction and guest participation. And with remarkably little breakage, considering that most of the props were off the buffet tables. RENTING A JUGGLER D.C. JUGGLERS SOCIETY meets Fridays at 6 at Chevy Chase Community Center. You can join and learn, or get a list of its expert members. Call 667-5307. OPEN UNIVERSITY has juggling classes periodically and a list of experts. Call 966-9606.