June 12, 1995 12:00 PM

by Diana Dubois

Even if you give Lee Radziwill a break—it can’t have been easy being Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s younger, plainer sister—she appears to have led a rather frivolous life, or so suggests freelance writer Dubois in this unauthorized biography.

One of the original jet-setters, Radziwill, now 62, flitted around the world for years chasing the center of the action. After two failed marriages, first to publishing heir Michael Canfield, then to Polish nobleman Prince Stas Radziwill, she hung out, in the late ’60s, with writer Truman Capote, had a fling with photographer Peter Beard and attached herself to a Rolling Stones tour. Today she is married to director Herbert Ross, whose credits include Steel Magnolias and The Turning Point.

Radziwill, a self-described original, searched for a form of self-expression that would get her noticed by someone other than gossip columnists. But DuBois argues that she lacked the discipline to stick to anything for long. She made a clumsy foray into acting, appearing onstage in The Philadelphia Story and in a poorly reviewed TV version of the movie classic Laura. (Her young niece and nephew, Caroline and John Kennedy, were perhaps her biggest fans; we’re told that they thrilled at the sight of their aunt necking in prime time.)

In 1973, Radziwill signed a hefty contract to write a memoir but later abandoned the project. In 1974 she tried hosting a TV talk show, but Conversations with Lee Radziwill died in the ratings. Only as an interior designer did she enjoy some success, but she quit that, complaining it was too taxing.

While DuBois relied on anonymous sources for her most salacious material, she also uses on-the-record interviews, along with previously published material to fill out her portrait of the little sister who struggled to emerge from behind Jackie O’s long shadow. (Little, Brown, $23.95)

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