WHEN WE DECIDED TO SALUTE A new generation of stars with this special issue, we soon discovered how many of them come to the constellations fully pedigreed. "It's usually worth our while to see the son or daughter of a star," notes Janet Hirshenson, one of several casting agents we consulted, "because talent could be in the genes." So we set about to gather a group of Hollywood heirs poolside at the splashy Beverly Hills Hotel. Deputy Los Angeles bureau chief Todd Gold spent two months working the phones to assemble Sage Stallone, 20, Chad McQueen, 35, Melanie Shatner, 32, and nine other very busy Hollywood progeny. "They were an amazingly well-adjusted and friendly group," says Gold. "I was impressed with how hardworking they are. Not a slacker among them."

Veteran PEOPLE photographer Mark Sennet conducted the six-hour photo shoot from an 8-foot ladder in the pool's deep end. "He stayed there all day long," says Phil Simone, art director of PEOPLE'S special issues since 1993. Though he has been involved in dozens of crowd-pleasers, including the photos for our annual 50 Most Beautiful, Simone found this shoot among the most challenging. Just try, he suggests, to "get all these people having fun at one time." And when the hard day's work, resulting in the gatefold on page 121 (and a sunburn for Simone), was over, "Mark and I got in the hot tub," he says.

On hand to share in the reporting was our own Hollywood child, Amy Brooks, daughter of writer, director and producer James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, The Simpsons). Though she knew only one of our heirs personally (she attended Beverly Hills High School with Rain Pryor), Brooks understood their concerns. "I recognized in them my own tendency to stress my individuality and try to just present me," says Brooks, 25. "And there's an extra effort to do that, because you're always hearing 'Oh, you got here because...' "

Brooks has had her own taste of screen success, appearing in a few of her father's films (including the forthcoming Old Friends), but in the end, after her 1993 graduation from Bennington College, she decided to forgo acting for a career in journalism. Brooks snagged an internship at Sassy magazine before coming to PEOPLE last year.

During the shoot, Rain Pryor, 27, relaxing in a deck chair and smoking a stogie, surveyed her friends and dispensed with any notion of their riding their famous fathers' coattails. "Shannon's [Lee] working. Bentley's [Mitchum] working. Moon [Zappa] is working," she said. "And you know what? They might be kids with last names, but these people are making it on their own."