What becomes a legend most? Shoeboxes. And when the legend is glamorous hoofer Ginger Rogers, shoes are more important than swathing yourself in yards of black mink.
And so, Ginger Rogers admits, without batting an aquamarine eye, that she owns 100 dozen pairs of shoes.
There is a startled silence in the hotel room, long enough to do a brief tap dance on top of the tape recorder. ''One hundred dozen pairs of shoes,'' she repeats in the throaty, peppery voice familiar to all Astaire-Rogers movie fans. ''I have more shoes than you have eyelashes. I'm a keeper, which is terrible.''
The keeper of the Ginger legend has fox-trotted into town for an American Film Institute (AFI) benefit, a gala ball, and the presentation of one of her nostalgic gowns from the movie ''Top Hat'' in a Smithsonian Museum ceremony.
What the Smithsonian got was a pale gray marquisette and silver paillette gown she wore to dance ''The Piccolino'' with Fred Astaire in their romp across the Venice canals. What they didn't get was a new Ginger Rogers wing, filled with rooms full of shoes.
Miss Rogers arches one foot - in its size 5 1/2 vanilla-leather, high-heeled pump - as she talks about today's movies, breakdancing, her autobiography, and the joy of work.
The entertainment world in general, she says, ''has gone up a crooked path. There are not these escape-type musical comedies on screen or stage any more, except the one Tommy Tune is in (''My One and Only,'' the Broadway musical also starring Twiggy). It proves that people want to see something that's wonderful, tuneful, musical, danceable.''
In films, she concedes that ''some things that are done are quite interesting and exciting. 'E.T.' was a good thing because it got some of the youngsters back into seeing values and love and affection and friendship and caring.'' She also praises the film ''Tender Mercies'' and its Oscar-winning star Robert Duvall.
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