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HOWARD ROSENBERG

The Sex-and-lunch Bunch Of 'Hollywood Wives'

February 15, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Give ABC's "Hollywood Wives" credit. It is refreshingly bold for this season because none of its characters has cancer, sexually abuses children or is suicidal. Oh, there is someone with a small problem in that he's a mad killer, but nobody's perfect.

Airing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42 (following "Life's Most Embarrassing Moments" Sunday night), "Hollywood Wives" is refreshingly irrelevant, happily ignoring every critical issue of our time. Its characters are too busy doing lunch and sex--when they're not doing their hair and nails--to worry about anything but doing lunch and sex.

This is a story about greed, lust, blackmail, treachery and murder--just a few of the things that we on the entertainment beat encounter daily.

"Hollywood Wives" is the sleaze behind the sleaze behind the sleaze behind show biz. Based on Jackie Collins' cynical best-selling sizzler, it is choice slime, a feast of dirt, TV's version of a compellingly bad B movie, another glamorous rhinestone-in-the rough from Aaron Spelling. ABC says its six-hour fan mag "will fuel the fascination people feel about the movie industry."

And fuel their fantasies.

Significant portions were shot in Pasadena and San Marino, producer Howard W. Koch has said, "because they look more like what people expect Beverly Hills to look like than Beverly Hills itself."

So "Hollywood Wives" feeds the illusion.

And racy ? "You're a director; direct me," sex symbol Gina Germaine (Suzanne Somers) coos while putting the make on Neil Gray (Anthony Hopkins). Neil could be speaking about this entire forest of gunk when he replies: "No, I wouldn't direct anything that's this badly written."

The plot holes in Robert McCullough's script may be gaping enough to accommodate a fleet of Mercedeses, but "Hollywood Wives" does leave you laughing.

It merges the movie community, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Century City and Malibu into one, giving outsiders the impression that there is a self-contained ghetto in Southern California named Hollywood where everyone in the business works, lives, plays and does their dry cleaning.

And everyone who lives there is mean-spirited, corrupt, hedonistic and amoral.

As a bonus, there is a howl of a back story, a sort of "Finder of Lost Corsican Brothers." Are you ready? Former prostitute Buddy Hudson (Andrew Stevens)--now a straight-arrow struggling actor in Hollywood with a naive wife as dense as he--is unaware that he has a deranged identical twin brother in Philadelphia, who doesn't know Buddy exists, either. The insane twin (also Stevens, in a $4.98 wig and beard) murders his stepparents and starts out for Hollywood to find his natural mother and murder her too. Bad Buddy and Good Buddy are heading for a showdown.

In Bad Hollywood.

It's obviously a jungle, a place where you can get seduced even at the gas pump. Fading star Ross Conti (Steve Forrest) makes a pass at his makeup girl. Ross walks on the street and Karen Lancaster (Mary Crosby) makes a pass at him. Ross' wife Elaine (Candice Bergen) comes home and the pool man makes a pass at her. Buddy walks by a pool and a girl in a bikini makes a pass at him. Buddy's wife Angel (Catherine Mary Stewart) goes to the grocery store and a guy makes a pass at her. She walks on the street and a pimp tries to recruit her.

"You'll never hang on to your man in this town by being an angel," one of the story's nasty females warns innocent Angel.

"Hollywood Wives" is proof. Everyone is dying to be in the movie that Neil is directing and that his wife, Montana (Stefanie Powers), is writing for Henderson Studios. Meanwhile, Ross is sleeping with Karen, whose movie-star father (Robert Stack) hates Ross, whose wife, Elaine's best friend, Marilee Gray (Joanna Cassidy), is the daughter of Henderson Studios head Oliver Easterne (Rod Steiger), who is sleeping with Gina Germaine, who is sleeping with and blackmailing Neil, whose former wife, Marilee, hates his present wife, Montana, who sleeps with Buddy, who wants to get noticed by Ross' old flame, super-agent Sadie LaSalle (Angie Dickinson), who wants to destroy Ross, who is being blackmailed by someone with pictures of him in a hot tub with Karen. Then everyone has lunch.

Meanwhile, Bad Buddy is working his way West, muttering: "I gotta get to Hollywood."

Director Robert Day--you have the impression that he knew he wasn't making "A Passage to India" here--is not without a sense of humor.

"By the end of the year," Elaine vows, "I will have Ross Conti right back up there where he belongs--on top." Cut to Ross somewhere else. "I want to get on top," he says. Then he climbs on top of Karen and oils her back.

If you get through the first two nights of "Hollywood Wives," you'll be rewarded by an eclectically traumatic grand finale that gives new meaning to camp and has everyone in it but Hopalong Cassidy.

Hollywood's moneyed and miserable assemble at a whopper party where they sneer and make passes at each other. But Neil is occupied elsewhere. In a classic B-movie rip-off, he begins throttling Gina in a fury and ends up kissing her passionately in bed.

Meanwhile, Bad Buddy is finally on the scene and makes his evil plans: "Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch my mother by the toe."

Who are the real parents of the two Buddys? And what happens when Bad Buddy and Good Buddy meet? Do they merge and become Bood Buddy? You'll find out. . . soon enough.

Be assured, meanwhile, that "Hollywood Wives" is a story that could be made only in, well, Hollywood.

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