On a perfect, balmy evening, the leaders of the two superpowers celebrated a new era with a historic state dinner at the White House. One even offered the hope last night that out of this summit would come "the biggest results" yet of any Soviet-U.S. negotiations.

"I cannot say yet how we are going to conclude this meeting, what the results will be," said Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in his toast to George Bush. "That would be premature. But I think that my talk today with the president and also the meeting of the delegations makes it possible to expect major results from this meeting and maybe even ... the biggest results compared to all the other meetings of Soviet-American summits."

Heady stuff, indeed, for the world watchers gathered in the State Dining Room, where Gorbachev laid the groundwork for a greater friendship between the two countries.

"The Soviet Union does not regard the United States as its enemy," he said. "We have firmly adopted the policy of moving from mutual understanding through cooperation to joint action. I think the work we're doing together with President Bush these days can be considered another step toward a more humane and just world."

"Mr. President," Bush told his counterpart in his welcome, "you deserve great credit for the course you have chosen, for the political and economic reforms you introduced and for creating within the Soviet Union this commitment to change," he said. "We want to see perestroika succeed. We want to see this transition now underway in the Soviet Union maintain its momentum."

Bush concluded his toast on a lighter note.

"And tomorrow, Mr. President, comes the moment that so many have been waiting for -- a day when expectations will be at a fever pitch. That's right -- tomorrow, Barbara and Raisa go to Wellesley College."

While the two First Ladies have starring roles at the college, where each will speak at the commencement ceremony this morning, both had their moment in the spotlight last night.

Barbara Bush was wearing a stunning sapphire blue gown with a shirred waist and billowing skirt by Arnold Scaasi, one of her favorite designers, accompanied by her trademark pearls with a glittering clasp at the throat. Raisa Gorbachev was wearing a three-piece, tea-length black chiffon dress with subdued green, gray and fuchsia swirls. President Bush was wearing a tuxedo; President Gorbachev, as is his custom, wore a dark business suit.

The dinner was the hot ticket of this administration. Instead of glitter, the Bushes opted for experts on Soviet and foreign affairs, and American business and industry leaders. The House and Senate leadership, except Speaker Thomas Foley (D-Wash.), who was vacationing in Barbados, was there en masse.

House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) called Gorbachev's message "very powerful, very substantive. He gave an upbeat prediction about what could be produced at this meeting. Usually, that's not done in a toast."

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) described the toast as "from the heart" and said it expressed "a degree of optimism which I hope will be fulfilled."

When reporters asked Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze if Gorbachev was specifically referring to the issue of a reunified Germany in NATO, he said, "Yes. The German question and world problems, but particularly the German question."

But the White House was already at work trying to downplay the significance of Gorbachev's statement. "I wouldn't try to tot it up until after Saturday," said National Security Council's Soviet expert Condoleezza Rice. "Camp David's the key to this."

Vice President Dan Quayle called Gorbachev's toast "quite good" and said it "reflected the tone of the meeting."

Even before the toasts, guests at last night's dinner had warm words for the Soviet leader.

"I'm going to wish him well and I hope that he puts {newly elected Russian Republic President Boris} Yeltsin in his place," said industrialist Armand Hammer, who has had extensive business dealings in the Soviet Union.

Office of Management and Budget Director Richard Darman said he had just one role for the evening. "I'm here to make Mr. Gorbachev feel good. I'm the personification of a 3 trillion dollar debt."

The 127 guests included a couple of high-level relatives: the Bushes' son Neil and his wife, Sharon; and Vice President Quayle's parents, James and Corinne Quayle. In the Bush friends category were Hollywood producer Jerome Weintraub and his wife, Jane, who have a home in Kennebunkport.

Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson was the only governor who made the list. Why Wisconsin? "I'm a close friend of the president's and I've been a strong supporter of his and he wanted me to be invited," he said. "Plus, on the national news today, it said there's a shortage of milk products in Russia. Maybe there's a connection."

The evening's star power came from Academy Award-winning actress Jessica Tandy and her husband, actor Hume Cronyn, and Morgan Freeman, her costar in "Driving Miss Daisy." While Tandy's only wish was to shake Gorbachev's hand, her "Daisy" costar wanted to pass on words of encouragement.

"I want to let him know about his chances and what he's trying to do," said Freeman. "It's a big job. A daunting job. He's taking on an entrenched system there and he's trying to wrench it around."

Repeats from the 1987 summit dinner were evangelist Billy Graham, who's held a number of religious "crusades" in the Soviet Union; Dwayne O. Andreas, chief executive officer of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., whom Gorbachev will also see in Minnesota; Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, then a congressman, who sat next to Gorbachev in 1987, Armand Hammer and Henry Kissinger.

The guests brought their own version of summit splendor. Most of the men were in black tie and the women added the color. Carol Sulzberger, wife of Chairman of the New York Times Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, was elegant in pearls, diamonds and black chiffon; Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole appeared in a figure-hugging yellow brocade dress; Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher's wife, Georgette, was in cotton-candy pink crepe with a massive taffeta ruffle; and NBC White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell swept in wearing a gold lame' sarong and cape.

When photographers tried to cajole a smile from Mitchell's escort, Alan Greenspan, she quickly set them straight: "For a Federal Reserve chairman, that was a smile."

Barbara Bush chose the Johnson china for the four-course meal that began with Maine (where else?) lobster en gele'e. The service, bordered by state flowers, had been kept on the kitchen shelf by Nancy Reagan, who, in her book "My Turn," said it was "more suitable for a luncheon than a formal state dinner" since it lacked finger bowls, bouillon cups, dessert bowls and serving platters.

The Bushes managed to make do, however. Their dinner fare included aurora sauce and corn sticks with the lobster; roasted filet of beef mascotte, green peppercorn sauce, asparagus, sauce aveline; mixed spring salad, St. Paulin cheese; lime turban with iced raspberries and friandises.

Between courses, Gorbachev leaned over to Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) and said that the Senate majority leader was looking extraordinarily well. Did it mean, asked the president, that things were going well in the U.S. government?

"No," answered Mitchell. "It means Congress is out of town."

After dinner, the guests were treated to entertainment by mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade.

Whether it was the voice of Von Stade, the music of the Marine Band, which played a special selection of Slavic tunes, the beautiful night or the company, President Gorbachev's success seemed assured.

"I'm not so worried about it," said Kissinger, smiling. "He seems relaxed to me."

The guest list for last night's dinner:

Mikhail Gorbachev, president, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Raisa Gorbachev

Eduard Shevardnadze, minister of foreign affairs

Yuri D. Maslyukov, deputy prime minister

Yevgeny M. Primakov, member of the Presidential Council

Ambassador Alexander Bessmertnykh and Marina Bessmertnykh

Yuri A. Ossipyan, member of the Presidential Council

Stanislav S. Shatalin, member of the Presidential Council

Nikolay Y. Kruchina, administrator, Department of Administration Affairs

Anatoli S. Chernayev, aide to the president

Valentin Falin, chief, International Department, Central Committee, CPSU

Sergei F. Akhromeyev, adviser to the president

Alexander S. Dzasokhov, chairman, International Affairs Committee

Alexei A. Obukhov, deputy minster and chief, USA and Canada administration

Anatoli Dobrynin, adviser to the president

Dwayne O. Andreas, chairman and CEO, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., and Inez Andreas

James Baker, secretary of state, and Susan Baker

Howard H. Baker Jr. and Joy Baker

James H. Billington, librarian of Congress, and Marjorie Billington

Robert D. Blackwill, special assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Anne Blackwill

Nicholas F. Brady, secretary of the treasury, and Katherine Brady

Tom Brokaw, "NBC Nightly News," and Meredith Brokaw

D. Allan Bromley, assistant to the president for technology policy, and Patricia Bromley

Rep. William S. Broomfield (R-Mich.) and Jane Broomfield

Neil M. Bush and Sharon Bush

Dick Cheney, secretary of defense, and Lynne V. Cheney, chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities A.W. Clausen, chairman, president and CEO, Bank of America Corp., and Mary Clausen

Hume Cronyn, actor, and Jessica Tandy, actress

Richard G. Darman, director, OMB, and Kathleen Darman

Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and Elizabeth H. Dole, secretary of labor

Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) and Jeanne-Marie Fascell

Max Fisher and Marjorie Fisher, Detroit, Mich.

Morgan Freeman, actor, and Myrna Freeman

Robert M. Gates, assistant to the president and deputy for national security affairs, and Rebecca Gates

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), House majority leader, and Jane Gephardt

Billy Graham, evangelist, and Ruth Graham

Donald E. Graham, publisher, The Washington Post, and Mary Graham

Alan Greenspan, chairman, Federal Reserve Board, and Andrea Mitchell, NBC correspondent

Armand Hammer, chairman and CEO, Occidental Petroleum Corp., and Rosa Maria Durazo

Carla A. Hills, U.S. trade representative, and Roderick M. Hills

John E. Jacob, president and CEO, National Urban League, and Barbara Jacob

Donald M. Kendall, chairman, Executive Committee, PepsiCo Inc., and Bim Kendall

George F. Kennan, professor, Institute for Advanced Study, and Annelise Kennan

Henry A. Kissinger, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Ronald F. Lehman II, director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and Susan Lehman

Robert H. Malott, chairman, FMC Corp., and Elizabeth Malott

Jack F. Matlock Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Rebecca Matlock

Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), House minority leader, and Corinne Michel

George J. Mitchell, Senate majority leader

Robert Mosbacher, secretary of commerce, and Georgette Mosbacher

John J. Murphy, chairman and CEO, Dresser Industries Inc., and Louise Murphy

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) and Nuala Pell

Thomas R. Pickering, U.S. representative to the United Nations, and Alice Pickering

Harold Poling, chairman and CEO, Ford Motor Co., and Marian Poling

Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Alma Powell

Vice President Quayle and Marilyn Quayle

James C. Quayle and Corinne Quayle

Joseph V. Reed, U.S. chief of protocol, and Marie Reed

William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States, and Natalie Rehnquist

Condoleezza Rice, director, European and Soviet affairs, NSC

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, assistant to the president for national security affairs

Raymond G.H. Seitz, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, and Caroline Seitz

Walter V. Shipley, chairman, Chemical Bank, and Judith Shipley

Hugh S. Sidey, Time Inc., and Anne Sidey

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr., chairman, the New York Times, and Carol Sulzberger

John H. Sununu, chief of staff to the president, and Nancy Sununu

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin and Sue Ann Thompson

Dick Thornburgh, attorney general, and Ginny Thornburgh

Richard H. Truly, administrator, NASA, and Colleen Truly

Frederica Von Stade, singer, and Philip Fortenberry, pianist; performing

William H. Webster, director, CIA

Jerome C. Weintraub, producer, and Jane Weintraub

Clayton Yeutter, secretary of agriculture, and Jeanne Yeutter