By Margot Mifflin
Updated March 29, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Photographer Robert Rosenheck found LOVE — a plywood prop spelling the word out, that is — in a Barstow, Calif., thrift store after his girlfriend left him. The prop became Rosenheck’s key to success: After he got Joan Rivers to pose with it for a photo, he persuaded others — including Bill Clinton and Davids Byrne and Bowie — to do the same. They all appear in The Love Book. Nelson Mandela tried to make off with it; Al Gore held it, asking ”How’s my hair?”; and Margaret Thatcher responded, ”Well, I won’t touch it, but if you place it on the table, I’ll stand beside it.” Rosenheck impersonated a TIME magazine correspondent to shoot Gorbachev, but all the dissembling in the world can’t explain how he coaxed so many luminaries into smiling submission. Either the prop is charmed or Rosenheck is a charmer. Whatever the case, The Love Book is an amazing chronicle of guerrilla goodwill.