OVER the years, various publishers have asked Carol Lynley to write her autobiography. "But the trouble is, sooner or later they want you to dish up the dirt," says the star of 1965's Bunny Lake Is Missing and 1972's The Poseidon Adventure. "Then I have to say, 'Guys, what can I tell you? I haven't committed a murder. I haven't done porno. I haven't been married 18 times. I don't make threatening calls. I have my vices—but they're all awfully normal.' "

The young '60s star, now 52, did pose for Playboy in 1965; she had an 18-year, on-again, off-again affair with British talk show host David Frost; and she spent much of the '60s and '70s living at Hollywood's gothic enclave, the Chateau Marmont hotel. But a lot of Lynley's time was taken up raising her daughter Jill (from her first and only marriage to publicist Mike Selsman), now 32 and a magazine writer living in New York City. And then there were the hours devoted to 32 films, five Broadway plays and more than 200 television appearances. "I'm in transition; I'm playing middle-aged parts, which is a good idea!" quips the actress, who was last seen in '92's Spirits. "Eventually I want to make the next transition, to where I'm playing snowy-haired old ladies, my Helen Hayes period." For the past two years, Lynley has devoted most of her energy to traveling and painting, something that she describes as her "real passion of late."

Lynley, who keeps a studio apartment in Santa Monica, is also currently house-sitting part-time for a friend in a Malibu cabin. "I've been so busy working my whole life, I've had no sense of domesticity," she says. But she is dating a California man, "someone I've been with for quite a while, someone I'm quite happy with." In fact, about the only item on her wish list now is a TV series of her own. "It's the only thing I haven't done," says Lynley. "Just getting up every day and going to the same place, that would be heaven!"