They billed themselves as the Friends of Ed Meese on the invitation, and the triad hosting the party on the anniversary of the attorney general's first year in office included the Washington basics: one think tank head, one lawyer and one spouse.

The think-tank head was Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, which paid for last night's reception. The lawyer was e. bob wallach, who prefers to leave his name uncapitalized (about which more later).

"bob and I decided that Ed is such a unique individual and such a great star in the conservative movement, we really should do something to celebrate that he's been at Justice for a year, that he's been in Washington for five years," said Feulner.

wallach, who went to law school with Meese, represented him during a yearlong investigation by an independent counsel that found Meese had violated no laws. wallach and lawyer Leonard Garment received much attention after requesting more than $700,000 in fees from the federal government for the work they put in on the case; they received about two-thirds that amount.

"Frankly, I said, the year is coming up, there'll be a lot of attention focused on it in the media, why don't we do a party?" wallach said last night.

And the spouse (Ursula Meese, who described herself as "one of the better friends of Ed Meese") agreed.

The other 200 or so who attended the reception at the Vista International Hotel were the heart of the conservative faithful with a sprinkling of social Washington thrown in. Ursula Meese described the guests simply as "some friends who were very supportive and very loyal to us."

At last night's party, coming as it did a year after the end of a grueling confirmation process, loyalty was key.

"Ed Meese has been a tremendously loyal worker and supporter of the president, oh God, going back to '66," said Colorado brewer Joseph Coors, an early financial supporter of the Heritage Foundation. Like at least half a dozen other guests, Coors was wearing a tie that expressed one of his economic loyalties -- silk embroidered with tiny profiles of Adam Smith. In his hand, another expression of loyalty -- a bottle of Coors.

"Ed Meese is one of the greatest Americans there is," Coors said. "He deserves a party."

Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, who has had his own problems with confirmation hearings, felt much the same.

"I think that probably there ought to be more of these for people who are in the administration, who are involved in public service and who have paid mightily for it," said the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division. Reynolds was nominated for the number three spot in the department, but was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Former interior secretary James Watt, another man who knows about political friends and foes, said of Meese, "There are so few politicians who will stand up at personal expense. It's a difficult life if you're doing what's right. If you're drifting, drifting with the town, it's easy. If you're fighting for America, it's tough."

After hearing a letter read from a friend who signed himself simply "Ron," Meese took to the podium.

"I must say, this has been a heck of a lot better year than the one before," he told the crowd, which included Secretary of State George Shultz, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Z. Wick and Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Press Foundation.

Then, before praising the friends who had assembled to praise him, he recalled a statement attributed to Harry Truman: "If you really want a friend in Washington, buy a dog."

The Friends of Ed Meese laughed very hard.

Postscript for those curious about e. bob wallach's typographical idiosyncrasy:

"That's been confused by some people as ostentation," he said, "but that's not it. It's a statement."

The statement, wallach said, is that "everybody's an important person. Everyone is unique. It's produced a fair amount of animosity, but the principle is right."

But what if the rest of the world decides to prove its individuality too, and noncapitalization catches on?

This is something wallach can't worry about.

"It's taken on a kind of importance for me," he said. "I really couldn't give it up now."