It's been a hard-luck story all along, and now former CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt's controversial book, "Countercoup," can't be released until the Iranian hostages are.

A McGraw-Hill spokesman confirmed yesterday that McGraw-Hill decided not to release the book until the hostages are freed "so there's no inflammatory" effect.

The book -- an account of how British and American intelligence toppled the allegedly pro-Soviet regime of Prime Minister Mossadegh and returned the shah of Iran to his Peacock Throne -- was recalled last August by McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. after 400 copies had already gotten into the hands of bookstores and reviewers.

The entire first edition of 7,500 copies was scrapped.A "revised" edition was supposed to be "reissued" this spring.

Roosevelt and McGraw-Hill had been threatened with a lawsuit by the British Petroleum Co. Roosevelt, who had submitted his manuscript to the CIA for prepublication review, had made changes at the CIA's request that BP claimed were not only misleading but "wrong, inaccurate and thought to be libelous."

A new edition has already been printed and is being stored in warehouses, ready for redistribution within six to eight weeks after settlement of the hostage situation.

The February issue of House and Garden showing Barbara Howar's Georgetown decor was outdated before it hit the newsstands.

She had already left Washington, moving to a house on Long Island, putting her property here on the market for $350,000. After months, it has been sold for a little over $300,000.

She left, she told friends, because "I didn't want to end up another Kay Halle . . . the oldest living political groupie in Washington."

Halle, heiress to a department store fortune in Cleveland, was a friend to the famous during World War II. Blond (like Howar), she settled into a handsome Georgetown house (like Howar), and gave parties (like Howar) and wrote books (like Howar).

Halle, informed of Howar's comment, said that she considers it "an odd parallel."

"It seems to me she can't stay put anywhere very long," she said, apparently referring to Howar's peripatetic life style, in which she has moved from house to house and job to job over the years.

The author brought down the house opening night at the Kennedy Center during the second act of Tennessee Williams' new "Clothes for a Summer Hotel."

But it wasn't anything Williams had written for his characters to say onstage that set the audience laughing. It was Williams himself, sitting in an aisle seat, laughing at what only he seemed to know was funny. Most of the audience didn't even know who was doing the guffawing.

Washington writer Kitty Kelley, whose "Jackie, Oh!" book on Jacqueline Onassis must have worn out the exclamation mark on her typewriter, has found a new subject worthy of her talents. Her next biography will be about Elizabeth Taylor . . . San Franciso attorney Melvin Belli, the flamboyant "King of Torts," is here trying a case in Montgomery County. His girth has expanded to the point now where his courtroom colleagues are calling him "Melvin Belly" . . . When Studio 54's Steve Rubell goes to prison soon, the mail he gets while he is behind bars could be compiled into a best seller. His secretary "Honey" has been busy compiling the addresses of all his celebrity friends so that he can write to them, in expectation that they will write back . . . Shirley Temple Black for vice president? Her husband says that she has been getting a lot of favorable encouragement since a magazine poll recently showed her the female more voters would like to see in that job.