Yesterday was the first time in 12 years that Marion Barry's name wasn't on a primary ballot. Since he is registered as an independent, he couldn't even vote yesterday, but he chose to have lunch at Duke Zeibert's, a very public place where he wouldn't seem to be hiding out on the day the city was essentially electing his successor. And he dined there with just his wife, Effi, in one of the couple's rare public appearances together since his trial ended.

His presence did cause an obvious buzz throughout the restaurant. Barry himself would say only that he was relieved not to be on the ballot and that he was there simply to treat Effi to lunch. When people weren't visiting with them, Barry and his wife ate with little conversation between them. Taking no sides, Bob Strauss, former national Democratic Party chairman, lunching with another former national chairman, John White, said that as a nonresident of the District he couldn't vote here, but felt it was good for the city to be getting a fresh start. Publisher Bill Regardie, often a tough Barry critic in his magazine, described the day as "an end of an era," adding, "It's very much like -- assuming John Ray wins -- Jimmy Carter coming in after Richard Nixon." When Regardie walked over to the mayor's table, Barry complimented him on his flashy tie. With a grand gesture, Regardie took off the tie and gave it to the mayor. Out and About The USO, continuing to add to its list for the upcoming tour of celebrities to entertain U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, has announced that actors Steve Martin and his wife, Victoria Tennant, will be going there in early October. The USO had earlier announced that comic Jay Leno would be entertaining on the same tour, the first to the Persian Gulf region since troops were sent in. Making light of his upcoming trip, Martin said, "Any vacation that promises sea, sand and poisonous snakes is the one for me. I also wanted to go to a country where I'm the biggest star" ...

Harvey Gantt is sweeping in and out of town this month for a series of fund-raisers in his bid to unseat the man liberals love to hate, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms. Powerful Democratic Party fund-raiser Pamela Harriman is hosting a reception tonight for Gantt at her Georgetown home. As part of her fund-raiser, a limited edition of prints from contemporary artists Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha will be given out on a first-come basis to major contributors. Tomorrow Gantt will speak to a Women's Democratic Club luncheon and in the evening will speak at a Constitution Hall concert, a fund-raiser titled the North Carolina Arts Festival. Later this month Georgia Rep. John Lewis, Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown and arts activist Peggy Cooper Cafritz will host a reception for Gantt in the Cafritz home ...

In a statement of support that should have Kitty Dukakis's publisher rushing to get the words on the book jacket, First Lady Barbara Bush praised the Massachusetts First Lady's autobiography, "Now You Know," which chronicles her struggle with drugs and alcohol. The First Lady said that she had read the book in a day and a half while on vacation in Maine and that Dukakis deserved credit for her sincerity and honesty, adding, "I think she would have made a great First Lady" ...

"A Dwarf-Tossing Contest to See Who Will Run Washington, D.C." -- the Village Voice headline on the District's mayoralty race ...