GREENWICH, CONN. -- "Someone down there said he's Falwell's bulldog tied up in the backyard. That's not true. He's our general counsel for PTL . . and I think he's one of the finest attorneys in the country." -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell on June 8 about his attorney, Norman Roy Grutman.

The Falstaffian presence was angry as he sat amid the leather-bound books and overstuffed chairs in the library of his $3 million-plus estate here. His enemies are legion, and they were the subject of waves of verbal abuse, articulated in a deep, booming baritone.

One adversary -- or more precisely, one person on the other side of the PTL issue that is the obsession of Norman Roy Grutman on this gray spring day -- is a "lunatic. He's incoherent, illogical . . ."

A recent ABC "Nightline" show that opened with a segment not friendly to the Rev. Jerry Falwell and then turned to Grutman to respond is deemed "so loaded, so slanted, so pro-Bakker, it was an execution, an invitation to a lynching."

A client who rejected his advice and went elsewhere is "mentally disturbed." And a lawyer who opposed him on a major case "professes to be a leader of the bar and he doesn't even have the morality of Court Street in Brooklyn."

Even in his Georgian mansion, which he and his wife and law partner Jewel Bjork have named "Courtly Manor," it was clear why Grutman's clients love him and why his opponents spit and hiss at the mention of his name.

The man who was hired by Jim Bakker's PTL ministry and has stayed on to battle Bakker and other foes under the Jerry Falwell regime is no gentleman lawyer. In fact, six years ago, when he opposed Falwell in a lawsuit against one of his most enduring clients, Penthouse magazine, he regularly referred to the founder of the Moral Majority as "Foulwell."

An educated loner who quotes the Bible and Shakespeare and can argue in English, Italian, Spanish and French, Grutman is not one of those who speak softly but wield a large brief put together by a committee of young Ivy League associates.

Grutman is one of the last of the courtroom showmen, a blood-and-guts advocate who plays tough and loud and mean. With his round face, trademark tinted glasses and bandanna, it was Grutman who yesterday called the Bakker management of PTL a "Ponzi scheme" as he appeared with PTL executives to explain why the ministry had filed under Chapter 11. And it was Grutman who hinted that church builder Roe Messner, who claims he is owed more than $14 million by PTL, might be lucky to walk away with a 2-by-4. Such hardball tactics have established him among the most interesting, successful and controversial lawyers of the era.

"I can imagine that there may be lawyers who are technically better, but I don't think anybody can give a better show," says attorney Ron Goldfarb, Grutman's longtime friend. "As my grandmother would say, he's got a mouth."

It is a mode of lawyering that has made him lots of enemies and a good deal of money. He has been chastised by judges and has been refused entry -- twice -- into the American College of Trial Lawyers. As Grutman sees it, he was "blackballed" by renowned trial lawyer Louis Nizer after bitter legal fights when Nizer represented owners of California spa Rancho La Costa in a libel action against Penthouse. Nizer denied it, and refused further comment "because I don't want to abuse any other lawyer."

But if the legal establishment considers him an outsider who belongs outside, others who have competed with him in the legal process are not so infuriated.

"Roy Grutman is a unique lawyer. The second best attorney in the country," says Gerald Spence, who became Grutman's friend after a case in which Spence represented a former Miss Wyoming who filed a libel suit against Penthouse.

Calling Grutman a "walking bibliography," Spence also sees an enormous flaw in the ways of his friend: "I think he greatly wastes this mammoth talent on the likes of Falwell and {Penthouse Publisher Bob} Guccione. If I had three wishes, one of them would be that I could set Roy Grutman to work for the people of this country as distinguished from PTL and the pornographers. They are different sides of the same hand."

Here in Greenwich, their refuge from New York, Grutman allowed his dissatisfaction to take its verbal shape. He seemed to be anticipating Spence's criticism.

"You find me very dissatisfied today," Grutman begins, making even this humdrum line sound like something out of Chekhov. "In a way it's like finding that fame and notoriety and publicity only bring fatigue and not necessarily happiness and satisfaction."

"And the criticism," adds Jewel. Dark hair, crisp white tennis shorts and summer sweater, she has the poise of a woman who had a comfortable Eastern education -- Mount Holyoke, Columbia University Law School, sixth in her class -- and who has continued to find life more interesting than disappointing.

Sitting on a couch, a bay window showing a gardener plucking out the few invading weeds, Jewel is a kind of oral editor, the prompter from offstage.

"And it exposes you to criticism," Grutman repeats his wife's phrase and embellishes it. "The savage attacks. I've had people, friends of mine, saying that I'm destroying my reputation by representing sleazebags. . ." he says.

"I'm not saying I'm ready to give up the fun and excitement of high-profile controversial cases but maybe I've had such a dose of it and not enough gratification and satisfaction out of it . . . I remember Learned Hand, interviewed shortly before his death, the greatest, most admired judge of the 20th century, when a reporter went up to see him in the woods where he was vacationing and said, 'What a wonderful life. It must be great satisfaction to look back on that?'

"He said, 'As far as I'm concerned, I feel I have spent my life shoveling smoke,' " says Grutman, heavily seeming to adapt Hand's assessment to his own.

Norman Roy Grutman, 56, was born in the Bronx. "I was the elder child of a very successful real estate family and I had the advantages of the best education that money could buy -- Horace Mann School for boys, Yale, Columbia Law School. French lessons, piano lessons, trips abroad."

His friends from that era tend to say he was then, the way he is now -- a loner who liked to entertain more than converse, a showy student who enjoyed theatrics. He had a following, but he also began early amassing enemies.

In a stentorian voice, Grutman recalls with ever-fresh expressions of horror the indignity visited on him at Yale almost 35 years ago.

He was blackballed from Phi Beta Kappa, blackballed from Phi Beta Kappa, mind you. He had the grades in his senior year of 1952, but as he puts it, "the head of the chapter didn't like me and it was like a fraternity and I could not shoot my way in."

The keeper of the gold keys didn't like Grutman because even then he was aggressively flamboyant in speech and manner ("he told me then 'we don't need the likes of you' " Grutman recalled). Also, Grutman told the Yale yearbook that "of course" he would earn the honor that year, and the yearbook editors included Grutman in the club before he had received an invitation to join.

So Grutman, who by then was struggling in New York City to figure out exactly where he fit in, waited for the chapter head to expire. And when he did, Grutman applied for a Phi Beta Kappa key, seven years after his graduation.

"One of the greatest moments of my life was to be invited back to the Nathan Hale room at Connecticut Hall where for the first time, they turned the pages of the Phi Beta Kappa book back and let me sign with my own class," he said. "It taught me as a lawyer how to persist on an appeal."

After Yale and several efforts to find his legal niche, Grutman in 1970 joined the firm of Finley, Kumble, Wagner, a move he says now was a "ghastly mistake." After six years there, Grutman left, charging that he was deprived of his share of the partnership. The issue went to arbitration, Grutman's winnings went to lawyers' fees, and he went from being a man who believed he was a millionaire to a lawyer who owned an apartment in New York. In the meantime, he had agreed to pay his first wife a healthy settlement in a divorce he describes as "nonacrimonious."

The Grutman legal team of Roy and Jewel, which began after the departure from Finley, Kumble, Wagner, is a compelling one. As he puts it, she is responsible for structure, organization strategy and theorizing.

He stands up in court, bellowing and whispering, keeping the jury awake.

"Maybe I have an old-fashioned view of this," says Jewel, who also runs a house with a cook and butler, an office in New York and keeps track of their three children, two by his former marriage, one by hers.

"I find that women do not have the weight or articulateness that a man does. The kind of cases we work on are really tough, big, mean cases and you need a killer."

"Yes," hums Roy. "We don't have any lady sumi wrestlers is what she's saying."

"There's no way I want to cross-examine certain lying doctors or certain Mafioso, the heavy stuff we have," Jewel continues. "Roy has the skill. He'll start with a question and . . . it's a set-up. It's a series. It's not just one question; you have to think around corners."

As if on cue, Grutman booms the conclusion: "We're a team, you see. I don't think I would have ever been able to accomplish what I have accomplished without my wife's help, guidance and assistance and I mean that. Not just because she's my wife. She's a superb partner. And as she's told you, she doesn't think she would be able to do the mean and ugly parts which I have an aptitude for doing. But then all of that is lagniappe."

Lagniappe. For Grutman, such words are not to be saved like the good china, and journalists covering his trials often keep a small dictionary tucked in their briefcases.

But it is not the vocabulary that gets Grutman in trouble. It is the way he uses it.

He describes himself as an ardent suitor of the English language, but for his adversaries, Grutman does to English what Guccione does to sex. There is no calibration on the Grutman rhetoric. Like water from an open faucet, his vocabulary gets hotter as it rushes along.

One Ohio judge, for example, chastised Grutman for, among other things, describing Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, as "the Son of Sam among publishers." Afterward, Grutman wrote the judge that traditions of vituperation go back to Sir Edward Coke's closing argument in the treason trial of Sir Walter Raleigh ("thou art the very spider of hell," the solicitor said of Sir Walter at one point).

"I said perhaps it's a question of taste. There may be some judges that like the Ionian or unornamented style and others who prefer the Corinthian . . . and you really ought not to expect juries to be persuaded by lawyers who are as dull as sawdust," Grutman recalls saying in his letter to the judge.

His response?

"He wrote back that this was a problem that courts have had to struggle with for many years and 'you are the kind of lawyer we have to criticize.' "

Other problems have been more serious. In one Ohio encounter with Flynt, Grutman came close to being disqualified after he was accused of stretching the rules of pretrial discovery. In the most serious contretemps -- and the one Grutman and his wife consider the most unfair -- former friend and fellow Christian Scientist U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa accused Grutman of having "flagrantly and willfully violated the rules of the discovery process . . . This was accompanied by subterfuge, misrepresentation and false testimony. Penthouse made a total mockery of the discovery process in this case."

The appeals court ruled that although there had been a "sordid pattern of prolonged and vexatious obstruction of legitimate discovery," it was not clear that Grutman was a party to this pattern. "It is conceivable that he was misled by his client," the appeals court said, going on to chastise Grutman for not pursuing the matter more diligently.

Still, one attorney who opposed Grutman in the case and disagreed with some of his tactics, says, "He's a great lawyer in trial and very good in creating a sense of drama where shock value is very important. The bottom line is that he is an impressive hard-nosed guy."

"He is irascible, no question about it," says Gerry Spence. "No question that he can set another lawyer's hair on edge about as quick as anybody I have ever seen . . . but these little debutantes of the legal profession who think that lawyers ought to do the minuet with each other have a great deal to learn from Mr. Grutman and me."

In fact, after Grutman puts on his show, the participants either come away irritated or fascinated.

After one trial his antics so angered a member of the legal support staff that one clerk printed bumper stickers that said, "Will Rogers Never Met Norman Roy Grutman."

Similarly Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson, who was the target of Grutman's courtroom manners when Robinson and the Globe were sued by former gubernatorial candidate John Lakian, recalls Grutman this way:

"He has reached the zenith for lawyers and the nadir for humans, which may be the same thing," said Robinson, who moved to Washington shortly before the jury rendered a verdict against Lakian. "You can quote me as long as you get across the point that I think he's the lowest form of human life."

John Scanlon, the Globe's public relations spokesman in that case, nicknamed Grutman "Roy Boy and the dittos" because of the young lawyers who always seemed to be padding around behind Grutman. But Scanlon came away from the same trial feeling that "I would never hesitate to ask him to represent me if I were in trouble.

"How can you not like Roy? How often do you meet people who are as articulate as that?" said Scanlon, who now sees him socially. "Like Shaw said about Mozart, Roy seemed to learn early on that you don't have to be dull to be serious."

In much the same manner, Jerry Falwell found Roy Grutman. In 1981, Falwell sued Penthouse to prevent the magazine from publishing an interview that Falwell had given without realizing it would appear in a magazine that advocates much of what Falwell condemns.

At the trial, where Grutman repeatedly referred to Falwell as "Foulwell" and competed chapter-and-verse in a biblical sparring match, the minister took note of his adversary. And the next time he needed a trial lawyer, he called Grutman.

Grutman said that although he and Falwell talk about religion on less frantic days, there has been no conversion. Grutman said he had made his religious search 17 years ago and found Mary Baker Eddy.

"I was raised in the Jewish tradition but I was never satisfied by it," Grutman says of his faith. "I found my way into Christian Science in 1970 and I found it was a logical extension of the spiritual values that I was seeking and which seemed dead in American Jewish practice. But Christian Science is rooted in the Old Testament, and there is no real difference except its acceptance of Jesus and the whole idea of Christian love whereas Judaism is so full of fear."

Grutman, in his personal beliefs, does not seem to match either the sinners or saints among his clients. He is a man who seems devoted to wife and children, and as a Christian Scientist he avoids expensive cigars or fine wines and cognacs that would seem to go with his dramatic persona.

In Guccione he represents "a cause for a case, not a man or a life style." He has represented clients on both sides of the abortion issue. He has filed libel suits and defended them, arguing with a passion for opposite sides that can be a lawyer's art more than artifice.

Perhaps Falwell, in defending his attorney against criticism of his other clients, said it as well as anybody.

"For those persons who have never seen Mr. Grutman," Falwell told the National Press Club. "Well, if you ever see him or hear him, you'll never forget him."