50 Ways to Say Happy Birthday

There are two ways to turn 50: quietly, for those in chronological denial, or raucously, for those who recognize there's no stopping the clock.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing the latter. Having her cake. Eating it, too. Laughing a lot.

The HRC extravaganza started Friday afternoon at the White House, when she was lured into a packed East Room and greeted by staffers, each holding up a mask made from her recent cover of Time. Then, because the Four Tops had entertained her husband on his 50th, the first lady got the Four Bottoms -- four guys singing so badly they interrupted their own rendition of "Happy Birthday." They were replaced by Sheryl Crow, who started the song over. Crow, who opened for Mick Jagger et al. last week, said, "The Stones wanted to come, but I told them this was my gig."

Early Saturday, Chelsea came home from Stanford and surprised her mother. The president knocked off work and the three spent a day at home. Saturday night, the first lady got a cake at the National Italian American Foundation dinner at the Washington Hilton, then another at the Hotel Formerly Known as the Ritz, at a party Ann Jordan and Buffy Cafritz threw for about 75 guests.

The first couple and daughter stayed for four hours; the Birthday Woman and her Chief Consort danced to "My Girl" and "Can't Help Falling in Love With You."

Yesterday, under a tent set up for the upcoming state dinner for China's President Jiang Zemin, Mrs. Clinton's staff surprised her again, this time creating an elaborate state fair of her life, with a different booth for each decade.

"People came from all over the place," said spokeswoman Marsha Berry. "She was surprised by all these folks." On hand, said Berry, were her mother, Dorothy Rodham; brothers Hugh and Tony; childhood chums Betsy Ebeling and Ernest Ricketts; friends from Wellesley and and Yale law school; former labor secretary Robert Reich; and Arkansas friends Linda and Harry Thomason and Mary Steenburgen, who brought along husband Ted Danson.

Today, the Clinton birthday cavalcade moves to Chicago, where the first lady revisits her elementary school, her first church and the hall where she heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Tonight, there's a huge party at a cultural center, where the president will join her. Tomorrow, it's Oprah. Wednesday, we want her to rest. The Gore Corps Score

He's a marathon man by day, a werewolf by night. No wonder Tipper loves him so.

Vice President Gore, 49, raced in his first marathon yesterday, flanked by his daughters Karenna, 24, and Kristin, 20. The trio finished the annual Marine Corps calf-cramper in a respectable 4 hours 58 minutes 25 seconds.

After crossing the finish line, the veep looked much like every other mid-pack finisher -- cold, pale and exhausted.

"I slowed down the last few miles," Gore admitted to Post special correspondent Jim Hage. "Karenna and Kristin could have gone faster without me." Karenna, a first-year law student at Columbia University, and Kristin, a junior at Harvard, wanted to enter the race and persuaded their dad to join them. They began serious training in August.

Mom snapped photos at the finish line, and then the pack headed home, where face-painted Tipper and Al stood for two hours posing for pictures at their traditional Halloween party. Then, looking fully oxygenated, the veep surfaced in the Presidential Box at the Kennedy Center for an all-star jazz performance. Amazingly, Gore's legs kept him up all day. NOW YOU KNOW . . .

The Queen of Soul went culture shopping Saturday. Aretha Franklin, in town for last night's Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz concert at the Kennedy Center, stopped in to see Gordon Parks's photographs at the Corcoran Gallery. Then she just had to pay homage to the Hope Diamond in its new spot in the Harry Winston Gallery at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

Doctors said Kevin McCarthy would never walk again after he was wounded in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre that claimed his father, Dennis. Friday he walked down the aisle, marrying Leslie Nolan of Bowie. The couple met when Nolan volunteered to work on the groom's mother's congressional campaign.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) had her eye out for a nice woman for her son and gently nudged them together.

"You're not gonna believe what just happened. Al D'Amato just hugged me!"

-- Geraldine Ferraro, the former Democratic veep candidate who might try to unseat the New York Repubican senator, at a dinner Friday night at Cafe Milano for the National Italian American Foundation CAPTION: At the Washington Hilton, banquet manager George Pulles surprises Clinton with a cake. CAPTION: Karenna, left, and Kristin Gore flank an exhausted Al after the race.