THE WINNERS by Dominick Dunne


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Though aggressively billed as ""Part II of Joyce Haber's The Users,"" this isn't really a sequel to that 1976 sleaze-a-thon--since there's a whole new Hollywood set of unpleasant central characters. Primary heroine is fat, vulgar Mona Berg, who starts out as secretary to old super-agent Warren Ambrose. But when Warren suffers a near-fatal heart attack while copulating with a starlet, Mona seizes the main chance: she forces the near-comatose Warren to let her take over the agency; she goes into action as a tricky, ruthless, pushy super-agent on her own. And the first major victim of Mona's viciousness is cocaine-snorting, sluttish, alcoholic star Marina Vaughan--who quits the agency over Mona's double-dealing and is then blackballed via Mona's nonstop nastiness. (Eventually, an utterly degraded Marina--whose father Rex is an old-time star, whose mother committed suicide--will die in an orgy-cum-car-crash.) Meanwhile, however, while Mona is destroying Marina's career, she's creating one for sexually magnetic street-kid Frankie Bozacci: she picks him up for paid sex one night, dubs him ""Franklyn Bassett,"" wangles him a screen test for a new TV series (he scores on sheer sex-appeal), and falls obsessively in love with him as he becomes the hottest new Travolta-esque star. But, though Mona redesigns herself in a desperate attempt to keep Frankie (even an intestinal bypass for weight loss), he's an unloving lover who has casual sex with Marina (during a posh party) and then falls in real love with Marina's loyal pal Cecilia Lesky--the over-protected daughter and granddaughter of legendary movie moguls. Thus, finally, when Frankie and Cecilia elope, Mona will shoot her lover dead in a jealous fit. . . and be acquitted on an ""I thought he was the prowler!"" defense. A thin plot--which Hollywood producer/screenwriter Dunne pads out with the usual mix of name-dropping (whole paragraphs of nothing but names), Hollywood dirt à clef, or smirky sex (all of it in the male-as-sex-object mode). And though Mona's unabashed foulness provides some energy and humor, the others are mostly just creeps (Cecilia is a faceless wimp)--so this unevenly written Hollywood novel is only intermittently juicy, with no one to root for as the stars, drugs, ugly one-liners, and celebrity innuendoes roll by predictably.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster