True, "cool" is in the eye of the beholder, and true, last year, crooner Tony Bennett became the darling of slackers. But PAT BOONE?

"Well, yes. He is so unhip that he's hip," says David Dorn, director of media relations for Rhino Records.So Rhino - a hipper-than-hip Los Angeles label best known for its superb compilations - is releasing "Pat Boone, 40 Years of Hits," a 19-song compilation video introduced by the man himself. The video (49 minutes, $19.98) comes out this week and features chart-toppers like "Ain't That a Shame", "I Almost Lost My Mind" and "April Love" performed on Boone's 1950s TV series "Chevy Showroom."

Now Rolling Stone and several alternative weeklies and monthlies are in line for interviews, and MTV and VH1 are inquiring. Delighted by the attention, Boone is busy making plans for a new recording - "something really different, unexpected."

Dorn played with the improbably cool point by sending out press releases about the video on a Wonder Bread bag - but later, over the phone, he sounded unrepentant.

"Pat is part of American pop culture and there is an audience out there and we aim to please," he said. "Besides, he is the No. 7 singles artist of all time. He's ahead of Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Madonna."

It is, of course, true. As they say in baseball, you can look it up.

Between 1955 and 1963, only Elvis Presley was more successful. The Sultan of Safe, the King of Square, Boone is ranked No. 5 for most consecutive Top 10 hits, No. 16 for most No. 1 hits, No. 9 for most charted singles, No. 9 for most Top 40 hits, and on it goes.

He has sold millions of records. And he is still very active, touring and hosting his own TV show ("Gospel America" on Trinity Broadcasting Network) and radio program ("The Pat Boone Show," syndicated to 165 stations).

"What is cool? Honesty," says Boone, 60, from Laughlin, Nev., where he was performing. "Even the songs I didn't like, once I decided to do them I absolutely gave it my best and tried to mean every word."

If Boone's new recordings come to pass, Dorn will have some serious explaining to do.

"Oh yes, I have some plans," said Boone. "Actually I already had plans before all this started to happen. I came in 40 years ago singing music that was totally foreign to me. As a teenager and would-be singer, I was doing Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Eddie Fisher, Vic Damone, and suddenly I was given an R&B song, `Two Hearts,' and that was my first hit.

"I know I can sing better now than I used to sing, and I said, why don't I do something really different, unexpected. Why don't I do a dozen heavy-metal classics? I can do them with a big band and if they are good songs, well-constructed, why not? And so we started talking about `Stairway to Heaven' and `Smoke on the Water' and Jimi Hendrix's `Foxy Lady' and Van Halen's `Jump.' I mean, you can really hear `Jump' with a big band."

"We are going to do a couple of demos. The musicians are very excited. We are going to call it `Pat Boone in a Metal Mood.' "

You have been warned.


LITTLE TEXAS - Little Texas has had a great year, what with the unqualified success of the country-Western act's first three albums. The best of those recordings were turned into the even more popular Greatest Hits compilation. Now the videos of their nine best-selling hits (including "First Time for Everything," of course) are out on a 50-minute tape. Also included is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes look as the five-voiced group filmed the video for "Life Goes On." Unrated, Warner/Reprise, $14.98.

- Max McQueen

(Cox News Service)

MLB UNVELIEVABLE! - I'm not sure how to take a video that features the "hilarious" bloopers of the '95 major league baseball season. Wasn't the whole strike-riddled year a big joke? Just asking. Nonetheless, this two-tape set has one cassette titled "Bloopers" that shows players and managers in their most embarrassing on-field moments. The other tape is titled "Great Plays" and includes the best plays by the likes of Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and some guy named Cal Ripken Jr. Unrated, 1995, Orion, $14.98.

- Max McQueen

(Cox News Service)

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS - The adventures of Edina, a riotously undisciplined wheeler-dealer who might achieve fame and fortune in some fashionable business if she weren't such a self-centered hedonist. Jennifer Saunders brings great energy to the sitcom, as both writer and star. In all, though, the series is no more attractive than the deliberately dubious characters who fill the screen. The cassette labeled Series 1/Part 1 contains the BBC program's first three episodes.

- David Sterritt

(Christian Science Monitor)

ALL I DESIRE - This finely expressive drama stars Barbara Stanwyck as a small-time actress who left her husband and children to pursue a show-business career that never got off the ground. Visiting her family to see her daughter's performance in a high school play, she finds that each member has a different set of feelings toward her and that her own emotions are far more complicated than she'd realized. The film was directed by the inimitable Douglas Sirk, who transforms the soap-opera story into a sensitive vehicle for his compassionate yet deeply critical view of middle-class American life. This film paved the way for his great achievements in "The Tarnished Angels" and "Imitation of Life" a few years later. Produced by Ross Hunter, who collaborated on many of Sirk's greatest films, and first released by Universal in 1953.

- David Sterritt

(Christian Science Monitor)