The had all been in the trenches; had all faced their own Sam Donaldsons, but they came for yesterday's White House press briefing and told their host Larry Speakes they didn't miss the daily battle with the press corps. Speakes invited nine White House press secretaries back to the Executive Mansion for lunch and for still another opportunity to meet the press.

The press secretaries and the presidents they worked for are Roger Tubby for Harry S no period Truman; George Reedy and George Christian for Lyndon B. Johnson; Ron Ziegler for Richard Nixon; Jerry terHorst and Ron Nessen for Gerald Ford; Jody Powell for Jimmy Carter and James Brady and Speakes for Reagan. Pierre Salinger, who worked for John F. Kennedy, and Bill Moyers, who worked for Johnson, were the only living former press secretaries not there. All the others were in town for last night's White House Press Photographers Dinner.

At the press briefing a reporter teased Powell by saying it was rumored he had had difficulty getting into the White House. "I must have had Bert Lance's or Mike Deaver's White House pass," Powell laughed in response. The press secretaries then gathered for a long lunch in the Roosevelt Room and autographed each other's place cards. They agreed to meet annually, but as Speakes said, "I didn't get any volunteers to change places." And Sam Donaldson wasn't even present at yesterday's briefing. End Notes

Occidental Petroleum Chairman Armand Hammer yesterday opened an exhibition at Moscow's State Art Gallery of art masterpieces he owns. The 87-year-old executive, who was responsible for the dramatic Soviet impressionists exhibition now at the National Gallery, has known every Soviet leader since the Russian Revolution. At the opening, Hammer was accompanied by former ambassador to Washington Anatoliy Dobrynin and Dr. Robert Peter Gale, the American bone marrow specialist who traveled to the Soviet Union to treat victims of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The collection will also be shown in Kiev and Odessa before returning to the United States in December . . .

Hot young actor Tom Cruise is so excited about Sunday's premiere of his new film "Top Gun" at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater that he's bringing the family to town with him. That includes his mother, father, 90-year-old grandmother, sisters, brothers and cousins -- 16 in all. The black-tie showing of the new movie is to help observe the 75th anniversary of naval aviation. Following the film there will be a buffet supper at USAIR Hangar 11 at National Airport . . .

Director Mike Nichols, in town Wednesday night for the American Film Institute's ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Directors Guild of America, watched a showing of his movie "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He told the AFI audience that it was the first time he had seen the movie since it was made 20 years ago. It is, he added, his favorite work and in seeing it again he was moved as he realized just how much he misses Burton . . .

Academy Award-winning actor John Houseman received the Congressional Arts Caucus Award yesterday at a luncheon on Capitol Hill. Houseman described his work in the 1930s with the WPA Theater and his present work with The Acting Company, the eighth theater company he has founded. Houseman, who was in town for Wednesday night's opening of The Acting Company's production of "Orchards" at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, said little has changed since the '30s -- theater ticket prices are too high, exceeding the rate of inflation. Rep. Claude Pepper, a member of the caucus' executive board and a longtime associate of Houseman, talked about his role with the WPA in the '30s. The 85-year-old congressman said he was welcoming Houseman to the middle rung of middle age. Houseman is 84 . . .

Those tough-looking guys going in and out of the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel really are tough: boxing greats Muhammad Ali, Michael Spinks and Joe Frazier. They are in town for "The Main Event -- A Tribute to Sugar Ray Leonard" tomorrow at the Departmental Auditorium sponsored by the World Boxing Council and the D.C. Boxing Commission. Also expected for the dinner for the home town champion are actors Bruce Willis of "Moonlighting" and David Hasselhoff of "Knight Rider" . . .