Washington free-lancer Philip Kopper to spend next several months combing ocean beaches from Outer Banks to Maine as Times Books signs him for natural history book on the Atlantic beach. Kopper's May 1977 article "The Wild Edge" in The Washington Post Magazine was book's beginning . . . Former chief of the Piedmont Virginia, Ray Dilley, named editor of Star-Democrat in Easton, Md. . . . It's megabucks in a paperback deal swung by Washington writer John Coyne. Putnam's sells reprints to The Piercing, a religious thriller, for $140,000.

Invitations led reporters and friends to believe Gerald Ford would be there, when the man who bought his Virginia house, Moussa Moaadel, "requested the pleasure of your company to celebrate the birthday of President Gerald Ford" two weeks ago "at the president's former residence." Former cabinet members and White House staffers received calls from Ford's Palm Springs office saying their ex-boss had nothing to do with the party . . . Cunard Lines, in press packet announcing the Queen Elizabeth II's maiden voyage to mainland China next spring, enclosed 20 handsome reed chopsticks. Made in Taiwan . . . Ex-Washington Daily News columnist Don Hearn (now he praises restaurants in the Capitol Hill tabloid Roll Call) signs on to do public relations for the Gaslight Club, about to undergo $90,000 refurbishing. Hearn's assignment: to keep the key club alive by attracting younger clientele and celeb customers.