Welcome to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

*Here on the Potomac River at nightfall, we see Malcolm Forbes, the extraordinarily wealthy publisher and adventurer who appears to be living testimony to what all of us truly believe in our hearts -- Money Will Make Life Wonderful -- greeting Washington's well-off and famous who have come for a spin Forbes' new yacht.

So as the 151-foot yacht, the Highlander, sets sail with the Washington Monument disappearing in the background of a nighttime skyline, Secretary of State George Shultz and the attorney general scrunch up on a sofa for a chat.

"I haven't seen Ed Meese in three months," said Shultz. "Malcolm Forbes promised me I'd have a chance to talk to Ed Meese."

"I'm here so I can talk to George Shultz," Meese said.

Shultz, who doesn't like to talk about current events at parties, had no comment on the explosion aboard a TWA flight from Rome to Athens that killed four people yesterday.

But despite the number of terrorist incidents in Europe (this is the second involving TWA), Shultz said he would fly TWA to Greece.

"Oh, of course," said Shultz, who usually doesn't have to take commercial flights on his business.

"I wouldn't have any hesitation," said Meese.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Warren Burger was chatting not far away from Robert Strauss, who was not far away from Michael Deaver, who was not far away from -- you get the idea.

Deaver, recently in the news because of questions concerning his meeting with Office of Management and Budget Director James C. Miller III on behalf of a client of his public relations firm, said of the whole thing, "I don't have anything to straighten out." A federal rule prohibits a senior official who leaves the government from lobbying his former department for a year, and Deaver left his job as an aide to Reagan last May. One issue is whether OMB is part of the White House. "Technically, no," Deaver said. "I've been very careful to be sure I've lived within the guidelines."

While guests ate dinner, the Highlander cruised. "Mr. Forbes doesn't want to go too fast," said Capt. Alex Photenhauer, peering out into the night from the ship's darkened bridge. "It's just a slow, leisurely little cruise."

"Many of these guests have been on previous Highlanders," said Malcolm Forbes proudly of his new Highlander, built outside of Amsterdam. "I wanted them to inspect the new one."

And what did his guests think of Forbes' new boat (ship, really)? "I just realized it is a boat," said Charles Wick, director of the United States Information Agency. "I thought it was a new marina hotel."

There is something quite titillating about inviting some of the nation's biggest power brokers to a party on your yacht and then sailing off with them all in tow. It's an exercise in luxury -- not everyone can throw this kind of party. And power -- no one will ever leave early.

Not that they would want to. Forbes' yacht has four levels with decks all around from which to take in the night air and the view. The furnishings are exquisite, the colors muted, and the ceilings covered with white leather padding. "It's the architect's feeling it would quiet the boat," said Forbes. "You don't get a sense of gilt and gold. It's dramatically quiet, don't you think?"

Before dinner, Forbes was explaining all about his ship to a gaggle of guests who peered around and gently punched the padded ceiling.

"Excuse me, Malcolm," Roger Mudd said, coming over and interrupting the little tour. "You want to see the skyline," he urged earnestly. "You want to see what is really a nifty scene." The guests dutifully followed Mudd outside to the deck.

"I think it's cramped," said author Christopher Buckley in his best mock arrogance. "I was expecting something much bigger. I'm deeply disappointed."

"You have to realize Chris sailed across the Pacific last year in a 70-foot sailboat," said his wife, Lucy.

"My cabin was this . . . " Buckley held his arms out three feet apart.

"Cabin? You had a hot bunk," said Lucy Buckley.

On the deck of the second level there are two speedboats, and parked between them are two Harley Davidsons (Forbes being a great motorcycle enthusiast). On the top level, sitting blissfully in bright spotlight is a gold and green painted helicopter ("The Highland Fling," says Forbes). The whole scene is reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

*"He has more toys than any boy in the world," said David Brinkley.

Now, the Forbeses -- Malcolm had four grown sons on board -- have nothing if not a sense of humor about all this.

"Hi, I'm Steve Forbes," says a smiling bespectacled man at the buffet table. "I believe in nepotism." The 39-year-old Forbes is president of Forbes magazine. "I made a rapid rise, as my father would say, through sheer ability -- and 51 percent," he chuckles.