By People Staff
Updated December 27, 1982 12:00 PM

Feel like noodling around in the kitchen? Do as James Beard does and whip up a platter of tortellini, fettuccine, macaroni, ziti or any of those other sensuous starches that Americans are consuming as fast as the proliferating pasta shops can crank them out. Following his uncanny ability to spot the chic food at the right time (his 1973 best-seller Beard on Bread was published just when cooks were rediscovering the joys of the homemade loaf), this culinary big cheese has now written Beard on Pasta (due from Alfred A. Knopf in March). “Pasta is almost a panacea,” says Beard, 79. “It settles your tummy and warms your insides.” More-over, you don’t have to be Italian to love it. Beard’s 100 new recipes include ways to cook Chinese wonton, Greek pastitsio, German säptzle and Jewish kreplach, along with Italian exotica like frogs’ legs tortelloni and pasta and gizzards. Beard also weighs in on cheeses, olive oils, tomatoes and the etiquette of forking unruly strands of spaghetti (the best way: tight twirls). “If you slurp them, so be it,” he declares. “The truly best way to eat pasta is with gusto.” Norman Mailer may finally have overdone it. After having written 25 uneven books salted liberally with incest, scatology, violence and magic, he has sent to the typesetters his 10-year effort, a novel set in Egypt in 1130 B.C. “This novel is nicer to me than any of my wives have been,” says Mailer, 59, who has been to the altar six times. “I leave it for two years and I come back and it says: ‘Oh, you look tired. You’ve been away. Let me wash your feet.’ ”

Titled Ancient Evenings and due from Little, Brown in April, the book is set in the decadent reign Of Ramses IX and flashes back to the time of Ramses II, “the Great.” Elements of the plot can only be described as Maileresque: necrophilia, fantasies of sex with the enigmatic Queen Nefertiti, and reincarnation (the narrator, Menenhetet I, is reborn four times in the course of the book). Scarcely containing his hubris, Mailer claims that the story is one that “Dostoevski and Marx, Joyce and Freud, Stendhal, Tolstoy, Proust and Spengler, Faulkner and even old moldering Hemingway might come to read, for it would carry what they had to tell another part of the way.” But only a little part of the way. Mailer warns that this 800-page number is Part One of a trilogy.

While the rest of Hollywood reclines on the analyst’s couch, actress Shirley MacLaine, 50, has risen from psychiatry into the upper reaches of what she calls “New Age Thinking.” MacLaine, whose last movie was 1980’s A Change of Seasons, has come to believe that “we’ve all been through many lifetimes,” and that there is another, “higher consciousness” controlling everyday life. “I think everyone has flashes of déjà vu, ESP, clairvoyance and intuition,” she says. “For me, things kept happening that didn’t relate to a two-dimensional sense of consciousness—by that I mean the conscious and the subconscious.

“I had prophetic dreams. Or I would think of a friend, locate him in my mind in a hotel halfway around the world, and call the hotel to find out that he was there.” When actor Peter Sellers died, says MacLaine, she felt his presence moments before a reporter phoned with the news. “It’s not that I’m a prophet or a seer,” insists Shirley. “I’m just a person struggling.” She has now written a 533-page chronicle of her struggle, to be published in July by Bantam. “Some people will look at this as Twilight Zone mumbo-jumbo,” she says. “I’ll have to be prepared to explain it.” The apt title of her opus: Out on a Limb.

Long, long ago, before a beautiful blond princess snared her prince, the heir to the British throne was attended by a valet named Stephen P. Barry (center). “He was a very good boss,” says Barry, 34, of Prince Charles. “But you always knew the balance. You never forgot you were the servant.” Nor did you forget all the tidbits of life behind the walls of Buckingham Palace. You filed them away for the time when you would cross the moat for the last time, enter the insatiable world of publishing, and write Royal Service: My Twelve Years as Valet to Prince Charles. The book, to be published this spring by Macmillan, is Barry’s response to rumors that he quit the purple after a row with Princess Diana. “I left because I wanted to slow down,” he says. Besides, the London-born Barry is as goo-goo over the Princess as anybody else in Britain. “Her appearance is fantastic, of course. But she has a very good brain.” Intimate snippets about the courtship of Diana and Charles highlight Barry’s saga. Are there any skeletons to be revealed in the palace closets? “We are talking about the next King of England,” replies the author. “He lives a very microscopic life. Sadly, the days when kings secretly went mad or something are over.”

“The dead and pieces of the dead turn up…everywhere, every day…Vultures, of course, suggest the presence of a body. Bodies turn up in the brush of vacant lots, in the garbage thrown down ravines in the richest districts.” So reads Joan Didion’s sparse but chilling journalistic account of her two-week trip last June to war-ravaged El Salvador. Didion’s book, Salvador, to be issued in March by Simon & Schuster, represents a return to territory that she first explored in her 1977 best-seller A Book of Common Prayer, a novel set in a fictional Central American country called Boca Grande. “That part of the hemisphere is an enigma,” says Didion, 48. “Theirs is a whole different orientation toward political life.” After visiting beleaguered priests and nuns in a parish house in the garrison town of San Francisco Gotera, she writes that the experience “remains in my mind as the one actual instance I have witnessed of grace not simply under pressure but under siege.” Didion admits to a gruesome fascination with El Salvador. “I’m obsessed with it. Nothing I’ve seen or read transmits how terrible it is. Terror is the given of the place.”

Was the great Bing Crosby really Mr. Nice Guy? Most people would say yes, but not son Gary Crosby. His Going My Own Way, to be published in April by Doubleday, is a rather pathetic account of growing up with Dad. “He was not a good father, not then,” says Gary, 49, the eldest of four sons born to Bing and his first wife, actress Dixie Lee. “He was a lot looser with the next three kids, by Kathy.” During Gary’s childhood, according to the memoir, Bing frequently flayed his boys with peach tree twigs and otherwise played the role of a dictatorial father-knows-best. “He meted out judgment. He sat on high,” says Gary, who was himself known for his hot temper. “He made us feel like we were bad, dumb, lazy, obnoxious slobs. I felt unworthy of love. As a consequence, things got screwed up. You get nasty.” Gary progressed to an adulthood plagued by alcoholism and career problems. Now an unemployed actor, he has found the writing of his book “intense therapy” and awaits public reaction with resignation. For good reason: Millions of people still believe in the image of a benign Bing. Says Gary: “Ninety percent of the readers of this book aren’t going to believe what I have to say.”