Attorney General William French Smith arrived at Nancy Dickerson's birthday party yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel shortly after attending President Reagan's official swearing-in at the White House. "It went much better this time," Smith said, "especially since it was inside on a day like today."

Former Carter White House social secretary Gretchen Poston told Father English, the former pastor of Georgetown's Holy Trinity Church, that she vividly remembered Inauguration Day four years ago. Poston was just outside President Carter's office where he was on the telephone to Switzerland, working out final details for the release of the Iranian hostages.

Poston was called to a nearby phone for what she was told was an emergency call. "I picked up the phone to hear, 'The gerbil got out.' I said, 'Thank you very much,' and quickly hung up."

Among Dickerson's friends in the Fairfax Lounge just off the hotel's main lobby were Phyllis George of "The CBS Morning News," presidential counselor Edwin Meese and his wife Ursula, U.S. Information Agency director Charles Z. Wick, Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti, Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb and his wife Lynda, publisher Walter Annenberg and his wife Lee, Nancy Reagan pal Betsy Bloomingdale, former representative Frank Ikard and entertainer Merv Griffin.

At one point during the luncheon, Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb.) spoke and then started singing, "Zorinsky for President," a chant that Bloomingdale, Annenberg and the other guests took up throughout the room.

Dickerson and her friend, philanthropist William Moss, a close friend of Vice President Bush, later went to the vice president's mansion to join a small group the Bushes had gathered to watch the Super Bowl. Moss, who hosted Dickerson's party, was asked how he was able to wrangle a Ritz-Carlton party room on inaugural/Super Bowl Sunday. "If you saw the size of the tab I run here, you wouldn't have to ask," he laughed.