In and Out of Hollywood by Charles Higham ISBN 978-0299233402 |

"MARLENE'S RULES were clear. No woman present must be younger than she, but all the men must be younger and attractive. No woman must wear a dress that might threaten to upstage her Chanel. There must be an equal number of men and woman, and the chairs in which she would sit must be lighted by a lamp with a pink bulb and a heavy shade, and not face sunlight or moonlight."

Such were the dinner-party dictates of Marlene Dietrich, according to Charles Higham's new book, "In and Out of Hollywood." You see? "Diva" behavior began years before Jennifer Lopez and Mariah and the rest. A star is a star. They want what they want when they want it, and they want what they want right away.

Mr. Higham is a well-known chronicler of the famous and infamous. Although he is a noted poet and has written a number of reasonably received plays, his biographies are the meat of his career. Kate Hepburn, Bette Davis, Howard Hughes, Cary Grant, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Audrey Hepburn, Orson Welles.

Higham's greatest notoriety came with his biography of Errol Flynn, in which he claimed the beloved swashbuckler was a bisexual Nazi sympathizer. His book on the Duchess of Windsor also revealed not only hers and the Duke's admiration of Adolf Hitler, but her own special sexual techniques, which kept the former King of England aroused enough to give up his throne "for the woman I love." Another controversial work came in "Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi American Money Plot." (Mr. Higham has not been without criticism for some of his revelations, considered fanciful, at best.)

His new book tells many dishy tales. It's shocking on Judy Garland and terrifyingly on spot on Lucille Ball -- believe me, Lucy was not funny in real life! However, the book is intended to be his tale, after years spent writing of others.

So we relive Higham's melodramatic childhood, replete with a wicked, sexually abusive stepmother, an early failed marriage, his belief in ghosts and his long-burgeoning homosexuality. We get a lot on that. (Higham refers to his frequent metaphysical experiences as "crossing the borderline.")

Everybody's entitled to tell their own story, as they like it. It's just that Mr. Higham doesn't come off as, well . . . likable. Maybe it's just his attempt at a healthy ego. But he does seem to feel he has been "done wrong" a lot. Maybe so. Show biz reporting is a thankless endeavor; one rarely gets credit from those raved about.

So, while I wasn't swept away reading about Mr. Higham's lovers and peccadilloes, he includes enough classic down and dirty dish on real stars to satisfy those of us who are amused by same. (His section on interviewing Katharine Hepburn is worth the whole book.) And how disheartening to learn that so many of the great lady stars, whose later careers depended on the kindness of homosexual support, were indeed homophobic. Including the queen's Queen herself, Bette Davis, according to Higham.

Maybe my favorite story is about the unabashedly autocratic director, Cecil B. DeMille. During a pre-production meeting on DeMille's epic, "The Ten Commandments," Charlton Heston, cast as Moses, asked DeMille, who would speak the voice of God, talking to Moses, on the Mount? A mighty tall order, after all.

DeMille shouted, "You DARE To Ask?!!!" And so of course, DeMille played God. It makes James Cameron's "I'm King of the World!" seem puny indeed.

BACK TO 21st century show biz realities: Our girl Lindsay Lohan has gone blond again (not an attractive look) and was filmed stalking and arguing with her on/off friend, Samantha Ronson. (Leave it to TMZ, staking out until 3 a.m. to catch the confrontation.) But the good news is that Lohan has been cast in "Machete," the new Robert Rodriquez film. Better news is that Robert De Niro is very much "attached" to the film, so this might give LL another shot at working with some of the greats.

WHERE DOES one go after garnering the reviews of one's life in Shakespeare's "King Lear?" Ask Stacy Keach. The veteran actor received brilliant reviews on his performance that rang down the curtain last week in Washington, DC.

L.A. and, but of course, Broadway are eventual goals. But something much more far-flung, exotic and challenging is also in the cards. A producer from the Bejing Opera Company caught Keach and is very much interested in staging "Lear" in the Chinese capital and Shanghai, as well!

Also on hand for one of Keach's last performances was filmmaker Frank Miller (of "Sin City" and "300" fame.) He promised the actor "a powerful role" in his next film, based on Aeschylus' classic drama about the Persians and the Greeks. (Miller had a big hit with "300" which told the story of the Spartans who gave their lives at the fabled Battle of Thermopylae. He knows his Greek history -- and CGI abdominals.)

But right now Stacy Keach is off to Poland with his family, where they have a second home. Poland! Every other actor seems to have a second home in posh Lake Como or Bermuda or the English countryside. But this Savannah-born guy chooses Poland. Well, maybe he likes to sail. The country does have 1,000 lakes.

Available at

In and Out of Hollywood: A Biographer?s Memoir

Charles Higham's Complete Collection also available at