August 01, 1994 12:00 PM

by Boze Hadleigh

What this book makes clear is that Hollywood stars are major-league trash talkers. Hadleigh, a Beverly Hills entertainment writer, has assembled hundreds of scorching comments culled from magazines, memoirs and newspapers in Babble On. It’s a collection that showcases actors, directors and other personalities at their cattiest—though not always at their wittiest.

There’s Rock Hudson teeing off on Lily Tomlin (“She’s been in and out of the closet more times than my hunting jacket”); Bette Midler bashing singer Helen Reddy (“They arrested her for loitering in front of an orchestra”); the hefty Divine drilling Elizabeth Taylor (“All my life I wanted to look like her. Now I find she’s beginning to look like me”); and countless other celebrities slamming fellow stars.

Yet what might have been a funny take on Hollywood’s tart tongues ends up falling flat. At least half the comments are innocuous (Bette Davis on Susan Hayward: “She was very unkind to me on the set of Where Love Has Gone”), and only a handful have real bite, including Truman Capote’s zinger (“Life is difficult enough without Meryl Streep movies”) and Red Buttons on Michael Jackson (“Where else but in America can a poor black boy grow up to be a rich white woman?”). Plus there’s a chintziness to the book—a poorly written preface, grainy photographs, no text other than the quotes—that makes Hollywood Babble On feel sleazier than it should. After all, in this age of tabloids and talk shows, slinging mud is good clean fun. (Birch Lane, $19.95)

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