It was a merrier Christmas than expected for the 17 U.S. Coast Guardsmen stationed at a remote outpost on the southern coast of Turkey. Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner, under whose purview the Coast Guard falls, decided to visit the post yesterday amid stops in Istanbul, Ankara and Tel Aviv. When Skinner informed the commander in Karga Barum, Turkey, earlier this month of his plans to drop in with a dozen or so aides, there was a moment of awkward silence. It seems that supplies arrive at the post only once a month, and serving an additional 12 Christmas dinners would put a strain on the larder. When Palm Restaurant owner Walter Ganzi Jr., also finance chairman of the Bush Inaugural Committee, heard of the situation, he made arrangements to ship a supply of steaks over on Skinner's plane. They arrived in Turkey safely, and the whole crew sat down last night in Karga Barum for a steak dinner with their boss.

James Brown's Furlough Tour Christmas was a little funky this year for the 10,000 soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., whose leave had been canceled due to the gulf situation. What they got instead was a rare concert performance yesterday from James Brown, out of jail since Sunday on a four-day furlough. The concert, Brown's first public performance in more than two years, was approved by S.C. Corrections Commissioner Parker Evatt. The "Godfather of Soul" has served two years of a six-year sentence for assault and illegal weapons possession, and is now in a minimum security facility near Aiken, S.C. He is eligible for parole March 8.

From Imelda, With Love Imelda Marcos sent a special Christmas message to the people of the Philippines yesterday from Hawaii, where she lives in exile. The message, carried by Philippine news services, said: "I do hope that one day I will be allowed by the government of the Republic of the Philippines to give and love my countrymen freely." She continued, "You can be sure that with your former First Lady, former mother of the country, when I come home, Christmas will not be for a day. I will make it Christmas every day, and make every day a day of giving and a day of love." Marcos has been forbidden to return to the Philippines since she fled with her husband, then-President Ferdinand Marcos, during the popular uprising of 1986. Ferdinand Marcos died in exile last year.

Julia Child's Gastronomic Gift Julia Child has given her enormous collection of cookbooks, tapes of her television series "The French Chef," and personal papers to Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library on the History of Women. Child, 78, said, "We're talking to Radcliffe and other colleges about master's degrees in gastronomy." The chef who almost single-handedly brought French cuisine into American kitchens and who received France's Ordre de Me'rite in 1974, hopes to get a little respect from the world of academia. "We're trying to establish it as a serious discipline. Gastronomy is very much like architecture -- you have the history and the hands-on as well."

Hope's Womanless Desert Stops U.S. Central Command in Saudi Arabia has restricted media coverage of Bob Hope's Christmas tour, but the entertainer did give a short news conference yesterday. He joked about having to perform with an all-male review (except for his wife, Dolores, singing "White Christmas") so as not to offend the Saudi government. He had to leave Marie Osmond and the Pointer Sisters in neighboring Bahrain as he made seven Christmas Eve stops, including one show for 7,000 troops in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. After a large show yesterday in an undisclosed location, Hope traveled to a Marine desert camp today for what he said he hoped would be his last performance in the gulf. "I hope we never have another war," said the 87-year-old comedian.

Chuck Conconi has the day off.