A ''kinder, gentler Julia Phillips.'' That's how publishers are describing Richard Pryor's third wife, Jennifer Lee, the latest woman to recount her personal odyssey into Hollywood's inner circles. In Tarnished Angel: Surviving the Dark Curve of Drugs, Violence, Sex, and Fame, due in October from Thunder's Mouth Press, Lee describes her own addictions and her troubled decade-long relationship with Pryor (they were married from 1981 to 1982), and provides new details about Pryor's near-fatal freebasing accident in 1980. ''Drug use was pervasive and public in Hollywood at that time,'' says Lee. ''Everybody was packing a vial. Now it's all gone back into the closet.''
As part of her tour through Hollywood's seamy side in the late '70s and early '80s, Lee also writes about her affairs with Ryan O'Neal and Clint Eastwood as well as her sexual adventures including alleged threesomes with Warren Beatty and Roman Polanski. ''Everybody was experimenting,'' says Lee. ''These days, anything like that is seen as aberrant behavior. But we just thought it was good healthy fun.''
The comedian, whose new movie, Another You, opened July 26, is recovering from triple-bypass surgery. Lee claims she has remained friendly with Pryor, although she says he has not read her account of their relationship. ''He's aware of it but hasn't really wanted to deal with it,'' says Lee. ''In a way, this book symbolizes a letting go for me, so I think it will bring Richard sadness and some anger.'' She adds, ''Richard has basically been able to control everybody and everything in his life, and now he can't.''