The crowd cheered for Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, but it was Paula Jones who stole the show.

Onlookers who lined up to see political, media and Hollywood stars at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday night screamed and pushed against the guard ropes when Jones entered the Washington Hilton, just minutes before President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton pulled up at another entrance.Dressed in a brocaded teal blue dress, Jones, with husband Stephan and spokeswoman Susan Carpenter McMillan, was rushed down an escalator by uniformed police as plainclothes security guards grabbed photographers by the arms to hold them back.

The Jones party was herded across one pre-dinner reception, conducted through the kitchen and a series of service corridors before they mounted a small stairway and arrived at a party hosted by magazine Vanity Fair, where Jones requested a glass of chardonnay. Asked by a reporter whether she was overwhelmed by the crowd, Jones pursed her lips and nodded.

Moments later, the Jones party made its way slowly through the cocktail reception on an outdoor terrace. Besieged by photographers, she signed autographs and indulged requests by dinner guests to have their picture taken with her.

She greeted new Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., with a hug and said of her husband Sonny's death, "I cried and I cried."

Even as she mingled among more than 2,000 members of the media, she refused to speak to any of them and nervously asked her husband why Carpenter McMillan wasn't doing the same.

"Oh no, is she talking to a reporter?" she said.

Carpenter McMillan said: "This is very important to Paula (to be here) to show that Clinton can run but he can't hide."

Clinton was scheduled to address the black-tie crowd of some 2,600 reporters, politicians and celebrity guests later in the evening.

Jones, a guest of conservative magazine Insight, was assigned a table at the rear of the huge ballroom, far from Clinton's seat at the head table. As dinner began, she entered the room holding the hands of the security guards who guided her to the table.