Eldridge Cleaver's frequent personal and political reinventions fascinated -- and sometimes appalled -- the public. Having come to prominence in the late 1960's as the author of ''Soul on Ice'' and as the mediagenic mouthpiece for the Black Panthers, Cleaver, who died in 1998, renounced his militancy in the mid-70's to join the Republican Party. Spiritually, he underwent similarly radical conversions, from being an atheist to becoming a born-again Christian who prayed with the televangelist Billy Graham. He was also a short-lived Moonie, founded the Cleaver Crusade for Christ in 1979 and the following year formed his own religion, Christlam, along with an auxiliary called the Guardians of the Sperm. Then he converted to Mormonism. Still, it may come as a surprise to many that, in 1975, Cleaver, then living in exile in Paris after a 1968 shootout with the Oakland police, took out an ad in The International Herald Tribune seeking investors and manufacturers for his fledgling men's-wear collection. ''Millions in profits envisioned,'' the classified read. It neglected to add that at the heart of the line were his patented Cleavers, pants in which a man's genitals were outlined in a socklike codpiece. ''I want to solve the problem of the fig-leaf mentality,'' Cleaver told Newsweek. ''Clothing is an extension of the fig leaf -- it put our sex inside our bodies. My pants put sex back where it should be.''