It is not often that a fellow whose name is preceded by that dreadful appellative "former" can stir up a crowd to take note, but Henry Kissinger, former You Know What, brought out an international pack of political swells this evening, gathered together at a private dinner-dance at the Pierre Hotel to celebrate his day of birth.

David Rockefeller was there. A host of other Formers, including Helmut Schmidt, Peter G. Peterson, Lady Bird Johnson, Happy Rockefeller, Jihan Sadat and Richard Helms were there. Presents included Barbara Walters (still working), Pauline Trigere (still designing and wearing those famous glasses!) and Jerry Zipkin (still going to parties).

The highest ranking Present present, from the political point of view, was probably George Shultz. He was also the most visible, his car speeding up to the hotel entrance nearly an hour late, with a second escort car with flashing red lights behind. Former Walter Cronkite, rather more self-effacing, arrived quietly enough in his limo and, smiling and bemused, paused in the rain to chat.

How did he know the former secretary of state?

"I met him with Rockefeller, up at one of those Rockefeller dinners," Cronkite said. "The governor introduced him as the brightest young man around. That irritated me because I thought I was."

Kissinger is 60, and looking pretty chipper about it, too. The actual birthday falls on Friday, but never mind, there's a party then, as well. Susan Gutfreund is reportedly giving it, though who will be left to attend after an estimated 300 partied here this evening is hard to imagine.

The party this evening, estimated to cost upwards of $50,000, was given by Guido Goldman, 45, director of Harvard's Center for European Studies and a longtime friend of Kissinger's.

"I'm privileged, very privileged, I never forget that," he told The New York Times earlier this week. "I thought everybody knew Herbert Lehman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dag Hammarskjo ld."

Immediately after that story appeared, Goldman ceased speaking with the press, saying through a secretary the party was "private," and declining to provide a list of guests. The list of guests was of interest because, though he entertains often ("I have little dinners with some frequency"), many of those invited on the elegant Cartier stationery were unfamiliar with their host.

"I said to myself, 'Guido Goldman, Guido Goldman, do I know a Guido Goldman in Boston?' " one elderly mogul confessed; while socialite Nan Kempner, in an elegant white dress with a handkerchief hem dipping dangerously close to the rain puddles, divulged their relationship in a decidedly more stylish way.

Henry Kissinger?

"I've known him for a long time," she said.

And Goldman?

"I look forward to meeting him," she said.

The Present Birthday Boy, unlike the Present Secretary of State, arrived at his party perfectly on time, pausing outside the door for the benefit of the photographers. Nancy Kissinger wore an off-the-shoulder black Bill Blass gown, especially made for the occasion; her husband, of course, was in black tie. They smiled nicely, and when a protester, not so nicely dressed, yelled, "Fat Henry killed the whole world," their smiles did not quaver or fade. A policeman shooed the protester away and the former secretary of state went to his party. The party being in the present tense.