Joan Collins: I’ve never learned how to iron or hoover, but I do everything else
Do I really have to ask her about Snickers? Joan Collins has had a 70-year acting career yet people want me to ask her about Snickers. Sending up her diva image in a chocolate bar advert set in a footie changing room has rebooted Collins for a new generation, if my Facebook poll What Would You Ask Joan Collins? is anything to go by.
So that’s the plan. Ask her about the touring one-woman show she’s bringing back to Britain, get her to pick her personal highlights, touch on how she continues to look so hot. Ponder whether there’s such a thing as a ‘gilf’. And then hit her with the big Snickers question. Like, er, has she ever eaten one? Job done.
The trouble is I’m calling Collins at nine o’clock in the morning in New York and it turns out that’s at least an hour too early in Collins world. I’m put through by the sweetly polite Percy Gibson, Collins’s fifth husband and all seems chirpy. But asking how she is gets a mildly grumpy: ‘Well, I haven’t had any breakfast yet.’
It makes me feel slightly guilty for making her get up before lunchtime. So I wonder if she ever feels like kicking back and taking it easy, rather than maintain a busy schedule of filming, appearances and writing – she has another book, A Passion For Life, due out. Bad move.
‘You mean retire?’ she replies, sounding appalled. ‘How do you know I could afford to do that?’ Er, I don’t.
‘What would I do? Sit around and get fat and watch those awful reality shows like people do. I can’t think of anything worse.’
Has she been asked to do any of those awful shows? ‘Oh, all of them. I’ve been offered a fortune. But I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I’m not interested – what I want to do is what I want to do.’
Which, right now, is One Night With Joan Collins, in which she cherry-picks highlights from a career that stretches back to a stage debut, aged nine, in A Doll’s House, through her years as a Rank Studios movie starlet in her twenties, skipping through the schlock horror 1970s, on to the Dynasty glory years as Alexis Carrington Colby and taking in her more recent incarnation as a best-selling writer of both fiction and health and beauty guides.
David Bowie and Doctor Who get all the kudos for shape-shifting with the times but it strikes me that Collins has pulled off the same trick.
‘What do people want to know at your show?’ seems an innocent enough inquiry. ‘What do you think they want to know?’ is what comes back.
She’s probably being contrary for the sake of it, having been asked every question under the sun, so I try: ‘Er, like, do you do your own ironing?’ Weirdly, that turns out to be my best question yet.
‘I never learned how to iron, my mother never taught me. Neither do I hoover. But I do everything else for myself.’ She warms to her theme. ‘I don’t have a team of stylists swarming around, getting me ready, doing my hair, choosing my clothes. I learned to do it myself, I can do it all.
‘I wasn’t certain whether I should be an actress or a designer, so I learned how to design all my own clothes. So it’s very easy for me: I get ready three times as fast as most young actresses, who seem to have to have everything done for them.’
MORE: From Dynasty to Miss Marple, Joan Collins’s key screen roles
It’s there, that beautifully bitchy, modulated tone that took her to Golden Globe-winning international fame as Alexis, the part that turned her career around and gave her a style which is, some three decades on, still instantly recognisable.
Ask her about favourite leading men, though, and you don’t get the answer ‘John Forsythe’. Instead, it’s: ‘Paul Newman. Always.’ In a tone that brooks no argument. Stupid question, obviously.
She says she doesn’t want to talk about the hornet’s nest stirred up by her 2011 book The World According To Joan, in which she lamented the state of the modern world and shared her unashamedly right-wing take on, among other things, Broken Britain. But she obviously thinks ‘what the hell’ and gives me a quick rehash anyway. It’s like listening to Jeremy Clarkson, only (I’m imagining) with more cleavage.
Then it’s back to the business in hand – inviting me to her show, which sounds a treat – but I’m getting the impression Collins and I have not completely bonded. ‘Is this for a two-page feature, Kevin?’
‘It’s Keith, Kevin’s the PR.’ Percy, the sweet husband is back on the line. ‘Joan has to go, she’s got another call. Thank you so much.’
So, Joan. Joan… about Snickers? Silence. Ms Collins has left the telephone. Keith Watson
One Night With Joan opens in Northampton on Saturday and is at the Leicester Square Theatre from April 12 to 28. www.joancollins.net
LIFE OF GLAMOUR: THE AGES OF JOAN
The Movie Starlet
Making her debut in Lady Godiva Rides Again in 1951, Collins was touted as a rival to Elizabeth Taylor. She took the title role in Sea Wife opposite Richard Burton in 1957.
Starring roles in late 1970s softcore romps The Bitch and The Stud, both based on novels by her sister Jackie, revamped Collins as a sex symbol.
The Soap Star
Eight years as Alexis Colby Carrington in Dynasty (1981-89) followed by a mini-series reunion in 1991 turned Collins into an international TV star. The best TV bitch ever? No contest.
The Ad Legend
From iconic ads for British Airways and Cinzano in the 1970s to present-day Snickers, Collins has been the face of a diverse range of brands. A girl’s gotta do, etc.