In the past three years, three classic Arthur Miller plays have been given major productions here -- "Death of a Salesman" at the Kennedy Center in 1984, and within the past season, "All My Sons" at Ford's Theatre and "The Crucible" at Arena Stage. This weekend, Miller was in town promoting his autobiography, "Timebends," and helping raise money at two events for the PEN/Faulkner literary awards, which are administered by the Folger Shakespeare Library.

One was a $200-a-person black-tie dinner Thursday at the home of Finlay and Willie Lewis. In addition to Miller, the guests included John and June Hechinger, Jim and Kate Lehrer, Polly Kraft, Joan Bingham and Ina Ginsburg. And on Friday a standing-room-only crowd of more than 600 at the National Press Club heard Miller read from "Timebends." In the audience was Washington attorney Joe Rauh, who defended Miller 30-odd years ago during his battle with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Miller refused to name names and was fined and sentenced to jail for contempt of Congress. Rauh won the case on appeal. In a conversation after the reading, the 72-year-old Miller said if he had to go through life again, doing something other than writing plays, he would probably become a farmer "because it's just as insane as being a playwright."

Out and About

Apparently one can carry glasnost just so far, and public-relations-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has let the folks at home know where he draws the line. U.S. News & World Report says that Gorbachev has informed the White House that he does not wish to wear a tuxedo for the traditional state dinner when he is here for the summit. That should cause some commotion at the White House social office ...

Maybe it was the personalized license plate "OP ED" that attracted the car thieves; more likely it was the fact that the tag was attached to a spiffy red four-door Mercedes. In any case, they probably didn't know the car was owned by conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick said the Mercedes was stolen from a parking lot on L Street NW last Friday the 13th and was returned to him on a flatbed truck six days later. It was found abandoned on a Philadelphia expressway with a flat tire, and while it was in a police parking lot someone smashed a window. Almost everything left inside had been stolen, including several classical music tapes. The only thing left behind was an umbrella. Repairs will take nearly two weeks, Kilpatrick said ...

Hospital Report: Rep. Willis Gradison Jr. is at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he is recovering from a thyroid operation during which surgeons removed tissue suspected of being cancerous. An aide reported Friday that surgeons believe his prognosis is excellent. The 58-year-old seven-term Ohio Republican is expected to be released tomorrow ...

House Speaker Jim Wright may have been kicked around a bit by the White House, the State Department and many of his Capitol Hill colleagues over his involvement in a Latin American peace initiative with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, but former president Jimmy Carter -- who knows a little about how it feels to be kicked around -- is on his side. In a speech at Princeton this weekend, Carter said: "Had the president and secretary of state been carrying on their duties to try to enhance the peace in Central America rather than being the major obstruction of peace in Central America, then I don't think the speaker would have had to take the action he did" ...