Last night's 25th annual Ripon Society dinner was billed as a "Salute to Republican Women," but it was a man who received much of the saluting at an earlier VIP reception.

"He's simpatico," said Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt of Lt. Col. Oliver North, adding yet another term to the ever-expanding North lexicon, which now reads like the Boy Scout Oath -- " ... Loyal ... Obedient ... Reverent ... Simpatico ..."

Roosevelt was one of 36 women honored at the Park Hyatt Hotel by the moderate Republican policy group, and she was not alone in her praise for America's newest favorite fall guy.

"I'd feel very safe if Oliver North were protecting me," giggled Hawaii Rep. Patricia Saiki.

From her fellow honorees came such assessments as "earnest," "appealing," "sincere," "fantastic" and "brave."

But Ollie North as hunk?

"He's not my type," asserted Rhode Island Rep. Claudine Schneider, shaking her head. "Macho's not my style."

A few even claimed to have missed North's testimony before the Iran-contra committees. "We don't have TVs at the Peace Corps," said the agency's director, Loret Miller Ruppe. "We just can't afford them." Besides, she added stiffly, "I just worry about the Peace Corps."

Ollie North was not the only topic of conversation. There was, of course, the humidity. "I feel like I'm still in Ghana," quipped Ripon honoree Shirley Temple Black, former ambassador to that African nation.

And there's always Charles and Di. As to reports that the royal couple are headed for splitsville, "It's a load of nonsense," protested Timothy Raison, a member of Parliament who is here for the Fifth Transatlantic Conference, which is being cosponsored by the Ripon Society. "I should disbelieve 95 percent of what you read about the royal family."

The dinner, attended by 300 people, raised $110,000 for the society and its Mark O. Hatfield Scholarship Fund. Each of the honorees -- selected, according to Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, the Ripon chairman, for their "success ... loyal Republicanism ... and decency of values" -- received a paperweight embedded with a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin.

A light moment was provided during the program by Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, a dinner cochairman and herself an honoree. When the name of Kansas Rep. Jan Meyers, who did not attend, was read, Kassebaum said, "I have to put in a plug -- Kansas is the only state that has a woman in the House and in the Senate." Then, from a table in the far corner of the room, a woman's voice could be heard yelling, "Maryland, Maryland." The spotlight searched and landed on Maryland Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who was vigorously waving her arms.

"Oh, you're right," laughed Kassebaum, remembering Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski. She went on to modify her claim: "The only {state} with two Republicans."

Nebraska Rep. Virginia Smith, the dean of House Republican women and the ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, recounted past political triumphs by women and told the crowd, "We are no longer becoming a power. We are a power in the political world."

So too, apparently, in the entertainment world. When last night's after-dinner music by Julia Nixon & Company was deemed by Rep. Schneider to be too loud, she requested that the sound be turned down. The band immediately complied.

"What you saw," joked Schneider later, nodding at the stage, "was an example of female leadership."