October 25, 1982 12:00 PM

With titles to his credit like Cat’s Revenge: 101 Uses for a Dead Person, Dissolving Rubik’s Cube and How to Make Love to a Cat, author Philip Lief’s main form of slenderizing exercise would seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Lief’s latest lunacy is The Burbank Diet (Cornerstone, $4.95), a good-humored spoof of all those foolproof weight-loss programs. “Give The Burbank Diet to your friends,” he says, “and hope they don’t take it seriously. Give it to your enemies and hope they do.” Raised in Manhattan, Lief, 36, attended New York’s School of Visual Arts. Among other jobs, he worked as an art director for American Heritage Publishing before starting his own book-packaging firm in 1978. Lief lives in Southfield, Mass. with his wife, Leslie Wheeler, a writer of historical biographies. He spoke with PEOPLE’S Bonnie Johnson about the principles behind The Burbank Diet, which he says were based entirely on personal hunches and have not been approved by the AMA, FBI or CIA.

Why “Burbank”?

The celebrities in Beverly Hills can splurge on exotic fruits and wash them in their swimming pools, but what about the people in Burbank? What America needs is a diet for everybody, so I came up with this one.

How does one know if the Burbank Diet is right for him?

There are several key points to consider. If you live on the ground floor for structural reasons, if you wish you had more than one mouth or if your tailor suggests you switch to an upholsterer, then this is for you.

How does the Burbank Diet work?

There are four basic principles. The first is Noxious Combining, making combinations of food so awful no one would touch them. Then we have Conscious Declining, which is basically saying, “No, thanks.” The third is the Breath Pause. This is the most effective form of dieting. It requires holding your breath for long periods of time. The last is Behavior Modification. For instance, instead of going out to dinner, go out to buy a ladder, sit on a bench or pay the piper.

What are some Noxious Combinations?

One example is the Reagan Dog. You take a hot dog on a bun, then add sauerkraut and jelly beans. Any flavor will do but preferably all flavors. We have ethnic adaptations too. For example, a bagel, cream cheese and pig’s foot is an effective Kosher diet meal.

How does the Breath Pause work?

When you sit down at the table, take a deep breath and hold it. Turning blue is not the goal, but it’s close. It’s also known as the Pause that Represses.

What about losing weight quickly?

We have a crash diet based on Conscious Declining. Breakfast is orange juice, scrambled eggs, grilled ham steak, hash browns, jelly doughnuts and coffee. When this is served, you simply say, “No, thank you.” It’s easy and effective.

Is exercise important?

Very. We recommend things like put ting on the dog, letting your hair down, cutting the apron strings and making hay while the sun shines.

How does the Burbank Diet compare to other fad diets?

There are good diets and bad diets. The Burbank Diet is good. All the others are bad. The Drinking Man’s Diet, for example, is not recommended for people with livers. The I Love New York Diet is not recommended for people who can’t afford to go co-op. And the Beverly Hills Diet, we have to admit, is not recommended for anyone with common sense.

What happens if a person cheats on the Burbank Diet?

He has to go see The Fantasticks every night for seven years.

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