My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan Little, Brown, $195 Well-rested after his labours as head writer at the straight sitcom Frasier, which left him an extremely rich man, Joe Keenan is back to being gay, has married his partner Gerry Bernardi, and presumably has moved upscale in New York, away from and above the struggling writers against whom he used to pit his wits. The big news is that, after 15 years, Keenan has finished this much-anticipated third instalment of the comedic series - Blue Heaven (1988) and Putting on the Ritz (1991) - that made his name. As he admits in his author's note, My Lucky Star has been a long time coming - perhaps too long. The mostly gay readership that fell for Keenan's witty dialogue and camp sensibilities in Blue Heaven and Putting on the Ritz, which brought much-needed laughter to dark times, may be excused for feeling a little let down by this at times predictable and cliched take on Hollywood. Fifteen years on, Keenan's dialogue doesn't seem to crackle the way memory recalls. But perhaps - like good dance music and pleasant drugs taken in moderation - it may be that the straight world has so subsumed Keenan's brand of gay humour that it's lost its edge. The story this time is that Philip Cavanaugh, Gilbert Selwyn and Claire Simmons - and the evil Moira Finch - who first appeared in a comic con to defraud the mob and were last heard of making a hasty descent from the glitzy hype of the New York glama-zine world, have answered the call of 'Westward ho' and headed to Hollywood. Those familiar with the hapless trio may be unsettled to find that the story picks up pretty much where it left off. Philip has barely aged, and is still agonising as only a gay man can at being 29 and on the cusp of the middle age of youth. The returning reader, though, hasn't been a twenty- or thirty-something for a good decade and a half, and the connection takes a while to re-establish. It isn't until the second half of the book that you really engage with the narrative. The vacuous heights of stardom would seem the perfect setting for a Gilbert-inspired calamity, as Philip and Claire find them-selves yet again victims of 'the spectacular, almost supernatural rottenness of his luck'. When Gilbert, having plagiarised Casablanca on the reasoning no one actually watches black-and-white films any more, calls from Hollywood with news that he's got them a job writing a screenplay, for a megastar no less, Claire's instinct for self-preservation says to hang up the phone, immediately. Philip, convinced he deserves more than the loveless heart- break of musical near-misses off-Broadway, ensnares Claire's better judgment and bundles it business class to LA. There, he and Gilbert take a US$4,000 a month sublet on Scottish heartthrob Adam Brodie's movie-star bachelor pad and are soon ensconced in 'one of those spare, starkly modern LA homes that make you feel you've awoken in some future society where fashion favours shaved heads and jumpsuits, and possession of chintz is a felony'. The aforementioned megastar is Stephen Donato, who's keen to maintain a veneer of plausible deniability as 'the rumour-plagued straight boy his handlers so vehemently proclaimed' and finds in Philip an acolyte who will help protect his handsome facade from the onslaughts of 'those two ravenous beasts, the Public and the Media'. 'Here was no brainless hunk,' says the besotted Philip. 'Here was a man of vision, a passionate and sensitive idealist, and I prayed with all my heart that he might someday instil these noble qualities in me, preferably via fellatio.' Watch for Keenan's allusions to the sexual orientation of a number of big names, including those who seek solace in Scientology. Attached to the megastar is Gina, who seems to be the only person in Hollywood unaware of her husband's true calling, and his manipulative mother, cinematic grande dame Diana Malefante. She's at war with her sister Lily, who blames Diana for snuffing out the stardom that should have been hers and is planning to gut her in a tell-all memoir. Lily also knows what a teenage Stephen did in the pool house with his tennis coach. 'So embarrassing!' she trills. Keenan opens and closes doors with satisfying comedic effect. There's a rather amusing set-up, for instance, involving a man dressed as the Oscar, but equipped with a gilded erection jutting out to the right of the sword. Repeatedly nominated, Stephen has yet to handle the Academy's best actor award (Keenan, it may be interesting to note, had to wait years for his Emmy). There's also a running gag involving Drew Barrymore and her new movie Guess What, I'm Not Dead, 'about a horrible young man - or woman, we're never quite sure - who goes about killing people in interesting ways'. Lily is in it, and even her ward- robe girl, whom she encounters at Liquor Locker, thought her performance 'awesome'. Keenan makes considerable use of his own cachet to mock writers, in general, and screen-writers, in particular, and drops plenty of names along the way, with the odd cameo from the likes of Harrison Ford and George Clooney. He says his research 'consisted solely of reading Vanity Fair and gossiping at parties', which is surely the best way a sophisticated New Yorker can approach a subject so lacking in substance as Hollywood. As readers scan the listings page in the hope of finding anything to substitute for another wasted night in front of the television watching another Hollywood awards ceremony or another reality show about people aspiring to shallowness, My Lucky Star will surely fill the void.