Let's just say that Latin sensation Ricky Martin has apparently not come to grips with the demands of superstardom.

At last night's Larry King Cardiac Foundation gala, the singer was to be the grip-and-greet attraction at the VIP big-bucks reception. But when he stepped off the elevator at the Four Seasons Hotel to find himself inundated by rabid fans, he turned on his heel and fled to the safety of his hotel room.

"That was the biggest mob scene I've ever seen," said a stunned King.

Martin, who did come out of hiding later to perform, was clearly the hit of the night. The Puerto Rican hunk first burst onto the music scene as a 12-year-old member of Menudo and now has a solo career--16 million records sold last time we checked--and a following so huge he just got a court order barring the sale of counterfeit Ricky Martin T-shirts.

Yes, the 27-year-old is hotter than a sunspot, la vida loca everybody-wants-him entertainer of the moment. And who got him? Larry King.

"This year Ricky Martin, next year a Jew," cracked King.

Chalk up another coup for the bespectacled, suspendered talker from Brooklyn. King managed to persuade Martin to interrupt a U.S. tour--he's playing to stadiums full of hysterical teenage girls--to fly to Washington and sing (for free) to 400 of King's friends.

"I'm here for Ricky," said Cheryl Masri. "As a matter of fact, all the girls joining me are here for Ricky."

Talk show host John McLaughlin was less enamored. "I just want to see if he can utter three consecutive sentences."

He did.

"Of course I was going to be here," Martin told the crowd. "I live on emotion. I live on heart."

"We've had a lot of great nights," said King's wife, Shawn. "Tonight may be the best."

Missing it all was The Donald, a k a New York developer and presidential maybe-wannabe Donald "The Blow Dry" Trump. "The Donald is stuck in New York," said King. "The airport's closed, and he won't humble himself to take the train."

It's been quite a year for King: His son, Chance, was born seven months ago and there's another baby on the way in June. The blond charmer spent the evening cradled in his mother's arm, looking adorable. Takes after Shawn, who was introduced to the strains of--we kid you not--"Having My Baby."

King stood around beaming. His buddy, "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, called him "the celebrity spokesman for Pampers and Viagra."

But King was also glowing about the seventh annual gala: The night raised $400,000; each of the 400 seats paid for, he said proudly. The gala has grown so big that the foundation has added a West Coast party next May to its fund-raising roster, with all the money going to heart patients.

In return, King gives donors a hell of a show. Last year it was Celine Dion, red-hot from "Titanic's" "My Heart Will Go On" single. This year's gala had a Latin flair: In addition to Martin, the lineup included singer Jose Feliciano, comedian Paul Rodriguez and magician Joe Romano.

"I'm part of the Latin explosion," said Rodriguez. "It's taken a long time and it's due, isn't it? Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin opened the door, and I'm glad. But I'm funnier."

The comedian had plenty of unprintable one-liners and one quip about his heritage. "There are Latinos here tonight," he told the audience. "Still way in the back, huh? Nothing has changed."

The program opened with an all-American beat: the bouncing burgundy-and-gold Redskinettes. Well, why not? Every boy dreams of being surrounded by adoring cheerleaders, and King is clearly no exception.

Feliciano performed three songs. While it seemed a bit premature for "Feliz Navidad," we're pleased to report that his rendition of "Light My Fire" is still darn sexy.

But the one everyone was waiting for was Martin, who is in the middle of 25 sold-out concerts; King got the singer's one available night. Martin and dancers leapt onstage and began a spirited rendition of--guess what--"La Vida Loca" to screams from the audience. He is as cute in person as he is in pictures: blond highlights, adorable grin and a killer hip swivel.

At the end of the song he giggled and thanked the audience. Then he promised "three songs full of love. I swear I'm going to leave my heart and soul onstage."

There was a ballad and then a dance song, which had the audience up on its feet, Shawn King bouncing the baby and women shimmying their way to the front. "Hands in the air!" instructed Martin. "Let me hear your heartbeats."

The song ended in a burst of applause and Rodriguez came onstage. "Look at you!" he said to Martin. "You're sweating more than Mike Tyson in a spelling bee."

The night ended with the traditionally spectacular magic trick performed by Romano. This year Martin and Rodriguez served as straight men as a giant book titled "How to Be a Disco King" was rolled onstage. Need we say that the empty tome magically revealed a white-suited John Travolta look-alike with the visage of a certain Mr. King?

Okay, so he's no Ricky Martin. But he's doing okay in the la vida loca department himself.

CAPTION: "I live on emotion. I live on heart," said Ricky Martin, at the Cardiac Gala with Larry King's son Chance.

CAPTION: Three Kings, soon to be four Kings: Larry King, with son Chance and wife Shawn, who's expecting.