Each year over the 20 years Jack Valenti has been president of the Motion Picture Association of America, he has hosted a dinner and movie evening for the Italian American congressional delegation, which includes other prominent Italian Americans in Washington. By a strange twist of fate, this year's dinner-movie evening at MPAA headquarters was on the day President Reagan nominated Appellate Judge Antonin Scalia to become the first Italian American to serve on the Supreme Court.

At the dinner Rep. Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that Attorney General Edwin Meese had telephoned him earlier in the day to say, "Well, we've done it and we want you to know about it." Rep. Frank Annunzio said the nomination of Scalia didn't come as a surprise because he had discussed appointing an Italian American to the high court with the president as one of the primary goals of the Italian American Foundation. Rodino pointed out that he had spent years trying to get a president from his party to nominate an Italian American, but "it took a Republican president to do it."

Valenti said Scalia, who frequently comes to the annual event, had called a week or more before to say he couldn't make it Monday night. Among the other guests there to see the film "Cobra," starring another Italian American, Sylvester Stallone, were former secretary of health, education and welfare Joe Califano, Sen. Dennis DeConcini, Reps. Dante Fascell, Marty Russo, Mario Biaggi and Robert Lagomarsino, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, former U.N. ambassador John Scali and former deputy commissioner of immigration Mario Noto. End Notes

Sen. Russell B. Long, who is not a fan of televising Senate proceedings and who voted against the TV cameras, is now wearing clip-on sunglasses when he comes onto the Senate floor to avoid the glare of the bright lights. For those who see the sunglasses as some form of protest, Long's press secretary, Bob Mann, said there is no protest: "The lights hurt his eyes; it's as simple as that." Long, who is retiring this year after 36 years in the Senate, nevertheless plans to vote against making television cameras a permanent fixture when the issue comes up for debate next month . . .

A funeral mass is scheduled for today in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Raleigh, N.C., for singer Kate Smith, who died Tuesday. Although the date of her burial hasn't been set, plans are to bring her body to the Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Bladensburg, where she will be buried near other members of her family . . .

The terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States attack on Libya have brought bleak projections of diminishing numbers of American tourists traveling abroad this summer. But in Kenya, where tourists were not expected, they are coming in large numbers. They apparently are braving the dangers of travel because of the Robert Redford-Meryl Streep movie "Out of Africa." The Sidney Pollack-directed film emphasizes the majestic vistas of Kenya in the autobiography of Danish aristocrat Karen Blixen. One operator of a travel firm describes the Oscar-winning film, about Blixen's failure at growing coffee in Nairobi, as a "godsend" . . .

Hospital report: Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson was hospitalized Tuesday in Salt Lake City for observation of an illness described by his doctors as "a flu-like condition." The 86-year-old former Agriculture secretary is listed in satisfactory condition . . .

Boy Scouts of America had its Patrons Breakfast Encampment yesterday morning at Carderock Park, Md., where the corporate fund-raisers heard Paul Ciapparone, a former Iranian hostage who was rescued by former Eagle Scout H. Ross Perot. It wasn't exactly a roughing-it encampment, since the meal was catered by Ridgewell's.