Imagine, if you are able, a world without the megahit song "Jessie's Girl," or Noah Drake, the impossibly handsome physician of 1980s "General Hospital" fame.

That's how it might have been if 17-year-old Richard Lewis Springthorpe had tied a better knot on the rope he attempted to hang himself with in Syndal, Australia, back in 1966.

But the knot slipped. The kid lived. And grew up to become Rick Springfield.

That's the first, but hardly the sole "wow!" moment from "Late, Late At Night" ($26, Touchstone), Springfield's just-published tell-all autobiography. The book details his lifelong struggle with depression, many of his seemingly countless sexual liaisons, his recreational drug use (quaaludes were a fave in the 1970s) and, of course, the career as an actor and singer-songwriter that's made him a household name and that shows no sign of losing steam. (Check him out at 9 p.m. tomorrow at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000, Tix are $50.)

Among the other revelations in the book, which debuted last week at No. 13 on the New York Times best-seller list, are:

_ He narrowly escaped killing himself and his bandmates with what he thought was a "dummy" grenade while on a USO tour of Vietnam in 1968.

_ He took "Exorcist" star Linda Blair's virginity when she was 15 and he was a 25-year-old starving musician.

While the book, which Springfield wrote without the aid of a co-author, certainly revels in his personal and professional triumphs, the overriding theme is the soul-torturing depression he calls the "Darkness." Writing about it, he offered in a recent phone call, was easy; recording the audio book, not so much.

"I've been through a lot of it in therapy," he said. "And I was into the writing process. I was actually amazed at how much I remembered. But the audio book was emotional."

He admitted he choked up on certain passages. "But we left some of it in. It tells the emotion of the story. [Listeners can] hear the emotion of the story as I read it. It's hard not to convey that."

- Chuck Darrow