It was 11:30 on a Sunday night not quite two weeks ago when ABC News television correspondent John Scali picked up his ringing bedside telephone. A familiar-sounding voice on the line tersely grumbled, "Scalia, this is Burger!"

"Did you say Scalia?" Scali asked.


Recognizing the resonant voice as belonging to Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, Scali pointed out, "Mr. Chief Justice, you've reached John Scali, not Judge Antonin Scalia. So there must be a mistake." Burger stammered his apology and hung up. Scali, a former U.N. ambassador, turned to his wife Denise and said, "What do you make of that?" She shrugged and said it was probably just "one judge calling another." Why the chief justice was calling Scalia at such an hour remains unknown, but on the following Tuesday, President Reagan and Burger made their announcements.

folo10f Falwell's $5,000 Promise The Rev. Jerry Falwell has lost his court appeal and now must pay a gay activist the $5,000 he promised in a moment of anger. Falwell said on a Sacramento, Calif., television station that he would pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 if he could prove that Falwell said there would be "a celebration in heaven" if the predominantly gay Metropolitan Churches were annihilated.

Sloan sued, produced the videotape in court and won. Falwell appealed, and on Monday a three-judge panel in Sacramento Superior Court rejected the appeal. It was partly based on the contention that Sloan's lawyer had played upon a Jewish judge's alleged natural prejudices. The judges found that contention "wholly frivolous and totally without merit." Falwell also was ordered to pay $2,875 in lawyers' fees and sanctions for pursuing the matter.

Out and About It had to happen. Robert Redford plays an attorney who sings (sort of) and dances in a his new hit movie, "Legal Eagles," and may have established a dangerous precedent. At yesterday's annual meeting of the Washington (D.C.) Bar Association, trial lawyer Jack H. Olender was addressing the gathering on trial strategy. He emphasized that attorneys should go after what's important and avoid "red herrings." Then to the surprise of the three-piece suit set he emphasized his point by singing Johnny Mercer's song, "You gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . " His audience seemed to like it; so with any luck, it might be a trend . . .

Hospital Report: Superman is on the mend. Actor Christopher Reeve underwent successful emergency surgery to remove his appendix Tuesday in a New York hospital. The 33-year-old star was in the city filming his latest movie, "Street Smarts." Production will be halted until he recovers . . . Former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan has been confined to his bed with a chest infection. His condition is listed as not serious, but his grandson Alexander Macmillan said, "At the age of 92 one has to take precautions." Macmillan was prime minister from 1956 until ill health forced him to retire in 1963 . . .

Sen. Chic Hecht has introduced legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to comedian Red Skelton for his 62-year career as an entertainer. Hecht said that Skelton began his career in minstrel shows and vaudeville at the age of 10, starred in 48 movies, played on television for 20 years and had written "64 symphonies, thousands of short stories and several books." He said he has "spend a lifetime making America laugh and has done so with dignity and honor" . . .

The old Yankee Clipper can still attract a crowd no matter where he goes. Joe DiMaggio showed up at lunch at the Senate Dining Room Tuesday to eat with two baseball fanatics, Sens. Tom Eagleton and Jay Rockefeller. He hardly had time to eat with the steady stream of senators who stopped by to say hello. They included Majority Leader Robert Dole and Alan Simpson, Jesse Helms, Jeff Bingaman and John Stennis. While the other senators had been starry-eyed and discussed baseball stories, Stennis moved his wheelchair over to the legendary Yankee and simply said, "You have always been a great inspiration to the youth of America and I wanted to let you know that"