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NORTH RODEO DRIVE by Barney Leason (Bantam: $3.95, paperback; 416 pp.).

February 01, 1987|Betty Lukas

It's hard to figure out who the hero and heroine are among the steamy--and seamy--cast of characters in this tacky swing through high living among the lowlifes in Beverly Hills. Leggy, nervous, gorgeous Belle, who manages a cosmetic saloon called Belle Monde, and Clint, her brother-in-law-cum-lover, are as close as you're going to get to anyone admirable. She does try to tread the straight and narrow, especially since she's been widowed once already and is not quite sure about the condition of the second spouse. Clint has his little weaknesses, but they pale in contrast to the others.

For example, there's nothing good to say about certifiably crazy Clarissa Gorman, an ex-madam who's found a new call-girl angle in her fund-raising activities for good causes, or her husband, Walter, who has a penchant for a mousy but obviously very appealing girl-woman named Helen. Helen, generous to a fault, offers her offbeat sexual services to several high rollers, including near-illiterate TV producer Alfred Romney. His wife, Ginger, who has a perfect body that she frequently inspects, is an ex-call girl trying to go straight.

The notion that anything these people do or say could provoke even the most idle curiosity escapes me completely. Still, those who relish reading about real or imagined shenanigans among the Beverly Hills crowd just might enjoy a swing through these vagaries.

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