The older-and-wiser Lillian Russell, rather down-to-earth but insistently lady-like, recalls her sensational career as America's sweetheart--in this ""novel memoir"" larded with the unselective evidence of heavy research into old New York. (""Our country would have gone bankrupt without the generosity of Mr. J. P. Morgan in raising $62,000,000 in gold for the Cleveland government at 3.75 percent."") Demure, ambitious Lillian grows up in Brooklyn to find that her beauty is a snare, for every man she meets tends to propose marriage. . . or something. ""I thought it would be uncivil to refuse these gifts"" (diamonds and gold nuggets and such) ""and unwise to accept the donors' invitations."" Mama, a socially conscious dragon who talks like a temperance pamphlet, is appalled that her baby sings in tights, but all goes well, fortuitously. Diamond Jim Brady pals around during the blizzard of '88, Gilbert and Sullivan sue, Stanny White stops for drinks, Teddy Roosevelt chats politics, the Prince of Wales makes eyes. Sumptuous entertainments occur in sumptuous hotel suites, and it all does in fact read very much like an old-style celebrity's memoir--shallow in the heart, that is--aside from the excess of historical detail and the fact that Lillian recalls her stage debacles as well as her triumphs. Always tasteful and sometimes stylish--but, overall, a bland and cluttered period piece.