08/18/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
By A. Scott Berg
Katharine Hepburn, who reigned as a movie star across seven decades before her death on June 29, was full of opinions and was quick to share 'em, even on something as minor as how grapes should be sliced—vertically, never horizontally—for inclusion in a chicken salad.
Hepburn sounds off plenty in Berg's fond recollection of their close 20-year friendship. The actress comes across as smart, feisty, independent and, near the end, sadly diminished. But other than a disclosure that longtime lover Spencer Tracy once slapped her when drunk, gasp-inducing revelations are few. There are, though, hilarious accounts of a disastrous dinner with Michael Jackson (he claimed to be a fan but knew none of her films) and of a fulsome Warren Beatty's charm assault when wooing Hepburn for his 1994 bomb, Love Affair. Berg, a well-regarded biographer (Lindbergh), proficiently details the mundanities of Hepburn's daily life ("I never saw anybody derive as much pleasure from a good hospital corner," he says of her bed-making prowess) but can't overcome the inescapable fact that, even in her twilight years, she was more interested in getting on with life than examining it. (Putnam, $25.95)
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy look at a candid Kate