Marianna Liu says she remembers that evening in 1966 when she met Richard Nixon. They were introduced in the Hong Kong Hilton cocktail lounge, where Marianna was the hostess. "I didn't have a drink with him," she says. "I was working. The Hilton was very strict."

But later that evening she and a waitress friend visited Nixon and Bebe Rebozo in their suite in another hotel. "We had drinks and fruit," Marianna says. She and Nixon talked about her desire to emigrate to the U.S., and lawyer Nixon gave her some advice. Of Nixon, she adds: "He was very nice, very quiet. I wish I could have talked to him more, but we had to catch the last ferry home."

Marianna, a trim 45-year-old, today is a waitress in a Los Angeles Chinatown restaurant. She also is buying part ownership of a steakhouse in suburban Maywood. Recently she announced she was filing a $5 million libel suit against the National Enquirer. The weekly tabloid ran two stories in August which said that she and Nixon had carried on a "hot and heavy" romance, that she had seen him after he became President and that the FBI had suspected her of being a Communist spy. Liu's lawyer says Nixon is so angry about the accusations that he has volunteered to testify on Marianna's behalf. The Enquirer editor says, "We hope he does."

Ill at ease with English despite six years in California, Marianna declares: "People come into the restaurant where I work and they say, 'Red spy, Red spy.' I don't know where the paper got that. Four or five people, all from that paper, surround my house and they shout, 'Come out, Marianna. We know you're in there.' Of course I'm in here. This is my house. I should have called the cops."

The daughter of a Chinese army officer, Marianna left her birthplace, Peking, a year after Mao came to power. She moved in with an uncle in Hong Kong, went to work in import-export, then with a travel agency. (Her daughter followed her into the travel business in Hong Kong and recently gave her mother an around-the-world air ticket. "They say I travel because I made so much money as a spy," Marianna says with a smile.)

In 1969 she moved to the U.S., and her husband, Kwok Kit Faan, followed in 1974. She had a guarantee of a job as housekeeper for a family in Whit-tier, Calif., which of course is Nixon's hometown. Marianna refers to this as merely "a coincidence." For four years Marianna also worked nights and weekends as a cocktail waitress at the Maywood steakhouse. In 1972 she bought a four-bedroom home in South San Gabriel for $39,000. Although she says she is neither divorced nor separated, her husband, a bookkeeper, lives in Chinatown. Marianna's 80-year-old mother and an 18-year-old nephew live with her.

Marianna does have one other memory of the former President. When Nixon returned to Hong Kong a few months later, she was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy. "When I woke up, there was a bouquet he had sent me," she recalls. "The note said he hoped I'd be feeling better soon. And he gave me his card with his New York address." And that, she says, was the end of her brief encounter with Richard Nixon.