updated 12/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

"First of all, I'm not afraid of anything. Never have been, never will be," says rocker John Mellencamp, who at age 40 is making both his movie acting and directing debut in Falling from Grace, a drama due early next year and written by Mellencamp's buddy, Larry (Lonesome Dove) McMurtry. Mellencamp, who will be honored this Monday (Dec. 9) on Fox's Billboard Music Awards show, says of taking the movie plunge, "What is there to be afraid of? The worst thing that can happen is you fail. So what? I failed at a lot of things. My first record [Chestnut Street Incident] was horrible. Look, I don't think people are expecting another Hud [the 1963 Paul Newman classic, also written by McMurtry]." But they don't want a Dud either.

As a defenseless child, author Pat Conroy says, he rolled with most of his father's punches, but now he's swinging back. Conroy, 46, whose semiautobiographical novel about a dysfunctional family, The Prince of Tides, has been made into a movie by Barbra Streisand, due Dec. 18, characterizes his current relationship with his once bullying father as "fair. My father still has a room temperature IQ," says Conroy sarcastically, "and he can be stubborn. He recently claimed there was never any abuse in our family. He is simply not telling the truth. These comments [of mine] make him mad, but I say to him, 'You know, Dad, I'm really sorry it makes you mad, but nothing I say or write can make up for my ruined childhood.' What haunts me," Conroy continues, "is that I can't write about a nice father because the animal doesn't exist in my pantheon of fathers. I watch The Cosby Show, and I'm always waiting for [Cosby] to throw one of his kids through the window."

"I have been with the best," says septuagenarian sex kitten Zsa Zsa Gabor about her many lovers, of whom she has written in her new autobiography, One Lifetime Is Not Enough. Gabor, who agreed to speak only on the condition that her age not be specified, happily complied when asked to rate the guys on a four-star basis. Frank Sinatra: "I don't like him," she says. "He wouldn't take no for an answer. [In her book, she alleges that after a date, Sinatra wouldn't leave her house until she made love to him. According to Gabor, she agreed.] I don't give him any stars." Richard Burton: "He was wonderful. He gets four stars definitely. He loved women, and you have to love women to be a good lover." Sean Connery: "One hundred percent a four-star lover. Magnificent. One of the great regrets of my life is that I didn't meet him when I was 17, because if I had, we would have been married to this day and had 10 children. I know it."

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